DENVER (AP) – Carmelo Anthony was rusty in his return to the Denver lineup after a two-week absence following the death of his sister, and his teammates picked up the slack in the Nuggets’ 104-86 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
Anthony missed 15 of his first 18 shots and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes.
Anthony hadn’t played since Dec. 18, missing five games following the death of Michelle Anthony, a 38-year-old mother of four who died Dec. 21. The funeral was Monday in Baltimore.
After returning to practice Friday, Anthony said his sister used to call him after every game, “telling me what I did wrong, telling me what I did good and giving me some encouragement.”
The Nuggets went 2-3 in his absence, winning their last two, against Portland and Minnesota.
Chauncey Billups led Denver with 22 points and Nene had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Anthony was just 1 for 11 in the first half, his only bucket a put-back layup with 3:03 left in the first quarter. He finished 6 for 22 from the floor but made all four of his free throws.
While Anthony was struggling, Nene was surprising.
Denver coach George Karl said before tip-off that his big man’s bothersome lower back and tender right hamstring might limit him to a cameo appearance: “Don’t be surprised if he pulls the plug on himself early,” Karl conceded.
Instead, Nene had 16 points and six rebounds in 18 first-half minutes to help the Nuggets take a 51-39 lead.
Anthony had a nice stretch late in the third quarter, when he had two sweet jumpers and two free throws in a 6-2 run that put Denver ahead 59-51, then took a seat until the 5:32 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets led 69-60 after three quarters and used a 13-0 spurt behind J.R. Smith’s pair of 3-pointers to put this one away.
By the time Anthony returned to the court, the Nuggets were comfortably ahead 89-73, and he scored Denver’s next half-dozen points
Jason Thompson led the Kings with 17 points, and DeMarcus Cousins had 16.
NOTES: The Nuggets were without F Al Harrington for a third straight game because of a dislocated right thumb. … In the third quarter, Anthony corralled a rebound while diving for a ball, then passed to Kenyon Martin, who also was sitting in the lane, and the Nuggets called timeout.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)