Nuggets 127, Cavaliers 99
The Denver Nuggets are banding together with all the chatter of disbanding the team.
Ignoring the swirling rumors involving star Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets have focused on one thing: refining their game.
The Nuggets are definitely rolling along right now, blowing out another opponent as they handed the banged-up Cleveland Cavaliers their 19th straight road loss, 127-99 on Saturday night.
But this version of the suddenly surging Nuggets could be drastically altered over the next few days, especially if a proposed trade goes through that would send Anthony and Denver native Chauncey Billups to the New Jersey Nets.
That type of speculation has only served to bring this team closer, make them tighter.
''We're really locked in and tuned in to what's going on right now,'' Billups said. ''This is what we're capable of doing. I'm not saying win by 30 but playing well, playing together.''
If this was indeed Billups' final game at the Pepsi Center with Denver, the hometown kid put on quite a show, scoring 21 points and dishing out eight assists before calling it an early night in the lopsided win.
Playing with a little extra purpose just in case?
''I don't want to talk about that,'' Billups said.
Nuggets coach George Karl didn't want to contemplate that thought, either, preferring to think about wins on the horizon, not potential deals.
''My thought process is I hope he plays a long time in Denver,'' Karl said.
Anthony, shrugging off the intensifying trade talks, finished with 12 points as the Nuggets rolled to their third straight rout.
Cleveland kept it close early, even with only eight players available due to a rash of injuries and Ryan Hollins missing the game because of a death in the family. But the Nuggets went on a 43-18 run early in the second quarter to turn the game into a blowout.
Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and Antawn Jamison added 17 for the Cavs, who dropped their 13th straight game.
''They had too many easy baskets in transition,'' Jamison said.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said before the game he had never guided a team with so few players on the bench.
Alonzo Gee logged the most minutes, playing more than 40 with no one really to spell him. The team also lost Mo Williams in the first quarter when went out with a left hip flexor strain.
That was on top of already being without Daniel Gibson (ankle), Anthony Parker (lower back), Anderson Varejao (ankle/foot), Joey Graham (quad), Leon Powe (knee) and Christian Eyenga (ankle).
''We played a team with too much firepower,'' Scott said. ''With us as short-handed as we are right now, it puts us in a bad position.''
The Nuggets scored a season-high 80 points in the first half, leading by 31 at the break as they shot nearly 67 percent from the floor.
About the only thing that dampened the night for the Nuggets was speedy backup point guard Ty Lawson spraining his left ankle and sitting out the second half. As he made his way to the dressing room, Lawson gave away his shoes to fans.
Lawson may be able to play Sunday night in San Antonio.
Denver also had blowout wins over the Phoenix Suns and a Miami Heat team minus LeBron James earlier in the week.
Just as the Nuggets are beginning to click on the court, they may be torn apart as trade talks heat up involving Anthony and the Nets, a deal that could possibly go down next week.
Anthony insisted after morning practice Saturday he's more concerned with chasing a title than a big payday. That's why the All-Star forward has dragged his feet in signing the three-year, $65 million contract extension that's been on the table from the Nuggets since last summer.
He said he's continuing to weigh his options.
The discussions with the Nets remain ongoing but those involved were under the opinion an agreement could be in place possibly before the Nuggets return home Wednesday to host Oklahoma City.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way may be Anthony's decision to sign the extension should a deal take place with the Nets, so he doesn't leave next summer and become the headliner of the 2011 free agent class.
The Cavs know a little bit about losing a superstar, as James announced last summer he would join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
And now the Cavs are firmly in rebuilding mode, losing 23 of 24 games.
It's a scenario Karl would rather avoid, if Anthony were to be dealt.
''I don't really think about that stuff, but I don't think there's any question that discussion's been had with the people above me, and justifiably so,'' Karl said. ''For me, I don't want to rebuild, I want to reinvent. I want to reinvent our team rather than, going into a rebuilding phase.''
What does reinvent mean?
''Hopefully drop to 35, 40 wins,'' Karl explained. ''Keep the record at a level where you can sustain confidence and develop a positive energy with the new people.''
Notes: Nuggets F Nene led all scorers with 22 points. ... F Kenyon Martin was given the night off to rest his left knee. He's expected to play Sunday. ... The Cavs had seven of their eight players available score in double figures.