MILWAUKEE (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets over the Milwaukee Bucks 94-87 on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Anthony shook off a sore right shoulder after being hit in Monday night’s loss to Houston to go 16 of 30 from the field and leave a lasting impression before heading to Los Angeles.
Chauncey Billups scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets got a much needed win after coming with four losses in five games.
John Salmons scored a season-high 33 points and Andrew Bogut grabbed 20 rebounds, but the Bucks lost for the eighth time in 10 games as they continue to be the worst-shooting and lowest-scoring team in the NBA.
Trailing by five midway through the fourth, Al Harrington made a layup and Anthony slashed into the lane before hitting a fading jumper to cut the lead to 82-81 with 5:48 left.
After Salmons hit a reverse layup to give Milwaukee an 86-83 lead, Anthony made two free throws, Billups hit a 3-pointer and Kenyon Martin scored on a putback of Anthony’s miss to put the Nuggets up 90-86 with 1:26 left.
Bogut, who came in hitting 40.6 percent of his free throws, made the first of two with 1:18 to play, but Milwaukee missed its final six shots down the stretch, including two 3-pointers that would’ve tied it.
Billups hit four straight free throws for the final margin.
Anthony, who has been part of a season-long trade saga that could see him leave Denver at next Thursday’s trading deadline, is already prepared for the attention he’ll receive in Los Angeles at the All-Star break.
He dubbed it ‘MeloWatch’ on Wednesday and it’s something he doesn’t seem eager to participate in because he doesn’t have the answers to what his future holds and is noncommittal when asked if he’d sign an extension with the Nuggets.
The most recent rumors put Anthony in New York with either the Knicks or Nets, but he said he’s grown tired of trying to keep up with the latest news and he’s ready for something to finally happen.
Denver had stayed strong despite the distraction until this most recent stretch.
The Nuggets had blown double-digit leads in their last three losses and twice allowed leads of 10 or more evaporate in this one. Still, they held on to remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with 25 games to go.
Salmons had his best game in nearly two years, but the Bucks went 3 of 23 from 3-point range and could certainly use another shooter.
Michael Redd, who averaged 20.2 points over his 10-year career and is making $18.3 million in the final year of his contract, is expected to return to Milwaukee on Monday to continue what’s been a 13-month rehabilitation after his second reconstructive knee surgery in as many years. There’s no timetable for his return.
Denver has one more game on Tuesday before next Thursday’s trading deadline and Anthony certainly made a lasting impression to his suitors right from the start of this game.
Anthony drove around Carlos Delfino and finished with an emphatic, one-handed dunk in the first quarter, buried a 3 from the left side and slashed through the lane for a layup to give him 21 to that point and put Denver ahead 46-43 at the half.
Notes: Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova (right eye) did not play. … The game marked the one-year anniversary of Nuggets coach George Karl revealing he had neck and throat cancer. Karl said Wednesday during shootaround he remains cancer free since treatment and hopes to continue educating people on cancer issues. He previously beat prostate cancer.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)