Nuggets-Grizzlies Preview

Despite constant trade rumors, Carmelo Anthony is playing some

of his best basketball of the season. Arron Afflalo has also

stepped up of late.

The Denver Nuggets will look for a 12th win in 13 games against

the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night in the opener of a three-game

road trip.

With the score tied and Anthony on the sidelines after fouling

out with 19.6 seconds remaining Thursday against Dallas, Afflalo’s

jumper as time expired gave Denver (31-23) a 121-120 win.

“I’m really, really happy for him,” Chauncey Billups said of

Afflalo, who scored 19 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.

“When I see the way he works on his game, day in and day out, and

finally reap some of the benefits of that, it makes you proud.”

Afflalo, who has averaged 15.5 points while making 10 of 20 from

3-point range in his last four games, recorded his second-highest

scoring output of the season with 25 points in a 108-107 win Dec. 5

versus Memphis.

Anthony continued his tremendous play Thursday, scoring 42

points on 17 of 25 from the floor. He is averaging 35.4 points on

57.7 percent shooting – including 61.1 percent from 3-point range –

during his last five contests.

“I just feel healthy,” he said. “I think that’s the number one

thing. My legs feel good. My body feels good and I’m starting to

make shots. I’ve always taken the same shots. Some nights I miss

’em and sometimes I make ’em. Right now, they’re going in.”

The four-time All Star continues to be the focus of trade

speculation as the Feb. 24 deadline draws near, but he’s been able

to keep his focus on the court.

“I take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff

that’s going on out there and still be able to go out there and

play at the highest level,” said Anthony, averaging 31.0 points on

52.9 percent shooting during his last seven visits to Memphis.

The Nuggets, scoring an NBA-best 107.9 points per game, have

averaged 112.5 while taking 11 of 12 from the Grizzlies, including

the last three.

Denver’s potent offense figures to be tested by Memphis (26-29),

which has limited opponents to 94.6 points during a 10-3

stretch.

The Grizzlies won for the fifth time in six home games Friday,

overcoming an 11-point third-quarter deficit en route to an 89-86

victory over Milwaukee despite playing without leading scorer and

rebounder Zach Randolph.

“I think it was more defense than anything,” said center Marc

Gasol, as Memphis improved to 5-0 when holding teams to under 37.0

percent shooting. “When you get a couple of stops and players are

talking to each other, that leads to defensive stops. Defense is

always key.”

Randolph, averaging 20.2 points and a career-best 13.2 rebounds,

was sidelined with a sprained right ankle and his status for this

game is unknown.

Rudy Gay, held out of Tuesday’s 105-101 overtime win at Oklahoma

City due to a sprained right big toe, had 14 points and 10 rebounds

versus the Bucks for his third double-double in four games.

Gay scored 24 points in the Dec. 5 loss to Denver.