By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 9, 2008 3:10 AM
DENVER, Feb. 8 -- The scoring came so easily for Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, there were several possessions when it appeared that a Denver player passed on taking an easy shot because a teammate had an even better one.
The final result was a huge night for Anthony, who scored a career-high 49 points on 19-of-25 shooting, and a 111-100 loss for the short-handed Washington Wizards.
Anthony capped his night by sinking a three-pointer over Wizards rookie Dominic McGuire with one minute 24 seconds remaining, and the crowd at Denver's Pepsi Center exploded with cheers because the shot pushed Anthony past his previous career high of 45 points.
"The end part of that game I felt was a little bit on the classless side," Coach Eddie Jordan said after his team's sixth straight defeat. "But we all have our ways and when you get your butt kicked, the other team can do whatever it wants to do. But I thought it was very classless to close a game out like that. I have my opinion; I can say what I want to say. That's what I thought it was."
It is the Wizards' longest losing streak since they lost six straight between April 3 and April 11 last season. The common factor in both skids has been the absence of Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. Those two were out with injuries late last season and were out again Friday night. Butler missed his second straight game with a strained left hip flexor and is listed as day-to-day, but said following the game that he does not want to return until the injury is fully healed.
The Wizards (24-25) dropped below .500 for the first time since they were 9-10 following a home loss on Dec. 7 to Phoenix, where Washington's four-game road trip will continue on Sunday night.
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 21 points and rookie Nick Young added 19, but Washington shot 44.9 percent. Denver (30-19), meanwhile, shot 56.4 percent and finished with a 24-3 edge in fast-break points.
Anthony, who is from Baltimore and occasionally works out at a downtown Washington health club during the summer, scored 13 of Denver's first 15 points as the Nuggets built a 15-7 lead.
The Wizards trailed 30-16 at the end of the first quarter but briefly made the game competitive with a 13-6 push that spanned the end of the second quarter and the start of the third.
However, after an Andray Blatche tip-in drew the Wizards within 60-56 with 9 minutes 26 seconds left in the third, the Nuggets responded by increasing their energy defensively and unleashing a barrage of dunks, layups and open jump shots.
Anthony reached the 40-point mark with a three-pointer near the end of the third quarter that pushed Denver's lead to 88-72. His 49 points were the most scored by a Washington opponent this season.
Wizards point guard Antonio Daniels, who made his 33rd start in place of Arenas, left the game in the first quarter with what he called bone spurs in this right ankle and did not return. Daniels said the ankle has been a problem for several weeks and could be the result of him overcompensating while playing on a sore right knee.
Daniels missed eight games in December with a sprained right knee ligament. Asked whether he should take a few games off in order to allow the ankle to heel, Daniels said: "I can't. I can't. My team needs me out there, so I have to be out there."
With Daniels out, Roger Mason Jr. and DeShawn Stevenson shared ballhandling duties and helped the Wizards crawl back into the game late in the second quarter. A jumper by Jamison cut the deficit to 49-38 with less than three minutes to play and the Wizards went into halftime trailing 56-47. It could have been worse, as the Wizards shot 42.6 percent in the half, made only 2 of 13 three-point attempts and trailed by as many as 21 points.
In the game's final minute, the Wizards took to double-teaming Anthony before he could touch the ball in an effort to keep him from getting 50 points. Stevenson, who took turns with Blatche and McGuire defending Anthony all night, was not happy about the final result but didn't share his coach's feeling that Anthony and the Nuggets did something wrong.
"If you don't let him get to 49, he won't be trying to get to 50," said Stevenson, who finished with 15 points. "With a scorer like that, the last thing they think about is somebody's feelings. They just want to put points on the board."
Anthony was surprised when told of Jordan's comments after the game.
"Man, I can't really comment on that," Anthony said. "I had 40 points and we was up only nine points with six minutes to go in the game. We're still trying to win the basketball game; we weren't trying to embarrass nobody out there. We're still trying to win the basketball game. I don't think it was classless. He can go ahead and say it, but I don't think it was classless."
Wizards Notes: Arenas, who hopes to return to game action at some point after the all-star break, made the trip to continue his rehabilitation from knee surgery with the team's athletic trainers. Young, however, probably wishes the three-time all-star had stayed home.
At some point before Friday's game, Arenas cut the left arm off of the shirt Young wore to the arena. The prank was a form of payback for some perceived misstep by the rookie.
"Man, that was my favorite shirt too," said Young. "I loved that shirt." . . .
The Wizards had a rough night, but at least they had some true fans in the stands Friday night. A couple sitting in section 128 stood out because the man was wearing an Oleksiy Pecherov jersey (No. 14) and the female was wearing a Dominic McGuire jersey (No. 5).