Saturday, March 21, 2009
DENVER, March 20 -- Last year, Carmelo Anthony had a career night against the Washington Wizards. This time, J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen took their turns.
Smith scored a season-high 40 points, Andersen had a career-high 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six blocks and the Nuggets beat the Wizards, 116-105, on Friday night for their fifth straight win.
Antawn Jamison had 27 points and Nick Young scored 20 for the depleted Wizards, who have lost three straight and five of their past six. Injuries to Juan Dixon and Caron Butler left Washington with only nine players available.
"We're used to it by now," Jamison said of the injuries. "The difficult part is not having Juan Dixon able to play and Darius Songaila is really banged up. So we might be shorter than what we are. Nobody will feel sorry for us. We have to play through it. We have a lot of practice at this."
Interim coach Ed Tapscott said Denver's play was more of a factor than his short bench.
"It was more the aggressiveness of the Nuggets came into play," he said. "They scored too many fast-break points. Thirty fast-break points, and that was my point of emphasis, to limit their number of fast-break points."
Anthony, who scored a career-high 49 against the Wizards on Feb. 8, 2008, had 20 points and let Smith steal the show. Smith was 15 for 23 from the field and also added six assists. He didn't stick around to talk about his night, but his teammates did.
"He had a game, didn't he?" Anthony said.
Chauncey Billups scored five points and took only seven shots because Smith was playing so well.
"When J.R. is shooting like that, with all the other options we have, we're pretty much unstoppable offensively," he said.
Smith had two key spurts that keyed the Nuggets' win. In the second quarter, he came back into the game with Denver down 32-31 and scored 10 points, two on a fast-break layup that gave his team a 52-43 lead with 3 minutes 5 seconds left in the period. His bank shot later in the quarter gave Denver a 10-point lead, and the Nuggets went into halftime ahead 58-51.
Smith, whose previous high this year was 32 against New Orleans on Nov. 27, had 11 points in the third quarter to reach 30 heading into the fourth. He fell short of his career high of 43 set Feb. 22, 2008, against Chicago, and left to a standing ovation with 2:28 left.
"J.R. was pretty good. Pretty efficient. He was a nice horse," Nuggets Coach George Karl said. "He was a guy you could ride and feel really good about. The efficiency is something that doesn't come every night. Tonight, maybe one or two shots [were bad], but when you're in that rhythm you're allowed that."
Andersen gave Denver a boost off the bench. He had three blocks and 12 points in the second half to help the Nuggets keep a comfortable lead.
"At first we came out real slow but everybody started getting into rhythm," he said. "In the second half we started picking it up a lot."
The Nuggets increased their lead in the Northwest Division to 1 1/2 games over idle Portland. Utah moved into a tie for second with Portland with its win over Memphis on Friday.
Karl thinks his team could strengthen its hold on the division with a couple of wins on the upcoming three-game road trip.
"If we go out and win two out of three, which I think we're capable of, it puts us in a position to have an incredible season," he said.
Notes: Young is averaging 14.7 points over his last six games. . . . Washington C JaVale McGee (13 points, 11 rebounds) notched his fourth double-double of the season. . . . The Wizards wrap up a four-game Western road trip tonight in Phoenix. They are 0-3 on the trip so far . . .
Denver's 45-25 mark tied the franchise's NBA record for 70 games. The 1984-85 team was 45-25 and advanced to the Western Conference finals. . . . The Nuggets are 36-2 when leading after three quarters.