Anthony leads Nuggets to 132-98 rout of Suns

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 10:05 p.m. MST

Denver Nuggets small forward Carmelo Anthony (15) is fouled by Phoenix Suns shooting guard Josh Childress (1) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Denver, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.

Barry Gutierrez, Associated Press

DENVER — Arron Afflalo scored a career-high 31 points and Carmelo Anthony followed up one of his worst shooting performances with a 28-point effort, helping the Denver Nuggets snap a three-game skid with a 132-98 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Anthony, the subject of trade talks all season, was greeted early by the crowd with a smattering of boos but quickly reversed the mood with his hustle and hanging jumpers. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.

That was a sharp contrast to Sunday night, when Anthony scored just eight points and drew jeers like he'd never heard before at Pepsi Center.

Ty Lawson scored 16 points and J.R. Smith added 15 to help the Nuggets avoid their first four-game losing streak in nearly four years. They're the only NBA team in that time that hasn't dropped four in a row.

Steve Nash hit his first four shots, but didn't make another and spent the fourth quarter on the bench. He finished with 15 points. Vince Carter also chipped in 15.

Denver native Chauncey Billups, who finished with seven assists, has been dragged into the most recent trade speculation, a proposed three-team deal involving Detroit and New Jersey and at least 13 players.

For that, Anthony said he felt remorseful since he knows how beloved Billups is in the Mile High City. The deal has picked up steam in recent days, but the chatter was quiet Tuesday.

Trailing by 12 after the first quarter, the Nuggets outscored Phoenix by 42 points over the second and third periods to turn the game into a rout.

With the game out of hand, tempers flared early in the fourth quarter. Goran Dragic was tripped on his way to the basket and as he fell, Kenyon Martin tried to hold him up. But Martin's elbow caught Dragic in the neck and Dragic shoved back, leading to technical fouls for both.

Chris Andersen (right knee), Al Harrington (strained lower back), Martin (left knee) and Lawson (left knee) were all back in the lineup.

Lawson provided an instant spark off the bench, pushing the pace and helping the Nuggets get back into the game after falling behind by as many as 14 points in the opening quarter.

Led largely by the backups, the Nuggets scored a season-high 44 points in the second quarter to retake the lead. Lawson scored 10 in the quarter, while Smith turned in two dunks that brought the crowd to its feet.

Anthony had a night he'd rather forget the last time he stepped onto the court, hitting 3-of-11 shots in a 96-87 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. The All-Star who has led Denver to the playoffs in each of his first seven seasons drew boos like never before from the crowd at the Pepsi Center.

He was jeered again Tuesday, before getting back into the crowd's good graces with his play. He started out slow, but picked it up, hitting 9-of-17 shots from the field. He also converted 8-of-10 free throws.

Anthony has been the subject of trade talks since he hasn't signed the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million extension they offered last summer.

The most recent deal has Billups and former Pistons teammate Richard Hamilton reuniting in New Jersey along with Anthony. The Nets would send rookie power forward Derrick Favors, point guard Devin Harris and others to Denver in exchange for Anthony, Billups, Hamilton, Shelden Williams and Terrico White, who is injured.

Detroit would receive veteran Troy Murphy and center Johan Petro. Murphy has a nearly $12 million contract that will expire after this season.

However, it hinges on whether Anthony will sign his extension so the Nets can have him as their cornerstone for years to come. Anthony has given no indication if he would agree to sign the extension and go to the Nets.

Grant Hill sat out Tuesday's game with a sore right knee and ankle, ending his streak of appearing in 70 straight regular-season games. The 38-year-old Grant left Sunday's contest against Cleveland in the first quarter after colliding with rookie Manny Harris under the basket and didn't return.

NOTES: The Suns host the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday. ... Suns F Hakim Warrick said he has attempted to talk to his good friend Anthony about all the trade reports. "He really doesn't like talking about it," said Warrick, who was teammates with Anthony when Syracuse won an NCAA title in 2003. ... Suns coach Alvin Gentry couldn't envision going through such a circus with Nash, largely because, "we aren't going to trade him," Gentry said.

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