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 Anthony's absence doesn't doom Denver vs. Houston

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PostSubject: Anthony's absence doesn't doom Denver vs. Houston   Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:04 pm

DENVER(AP) Carmelo Anthony's right elbow was
so sore, he couldn't shoot, pass or dribble. Heck, he couldn't even
lift his toddler son, Kiyan, after the game.Good thing the Denver Nuggets have Chauncey Billups on their side now.Making
up for Anthony's absence - along with 'Melo's usual double-digit
performance - Billups had 28 points and 10 assists to lead the Nuggets
past Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets, 104-94 on Sunday night.It
was Denver's third win in four games over five nights, and also its
11th win in 14 games since Billups arrived from Detroit in the Allen
Iverson trade."We just have somebody on the court who loves
winning and knows game situations and controls the game,'' Nuggets
forward Kenyon Martin said. "It's great having him. I told him right
after the game, 'I appreciate you being here.'''Billups scored
11 points in a 19-7 third-quarter run the Nuggets used to break away
from the Rockets, who played their third straight game without injured
star Tracy McGrady (sore left foot).The Nuggets lost their own
leader when Anthony took a seat in the second quarter after deciding he
couldn't take the pain of a sore right elbow that's been bothering him
since training camp but has gotten progressively worse over the last
couple of weeks.It hurt so bad, Anthony said, that "I couldn't
even dribble the basketball. I tried to lift my son up after the game
and I couldn't even do that.''Anthony scored just two points,
halting his NBA-best streak of consecutive games in double figures at
222. That honor now goes to LeBron James, who has scored in double
figures 134 straight times."I've got like 10 years left to get that streak back, so I don't worry about that,'' Anthony said.And he's not fretting over the ailing elbow, either.Anthony insisted it wasn't a serious injury and that he'll play Tuesday night against Toronto after receiving treatment Monday."I'll be OK, I'll get through it,'' he said.Anthony
said he was in a lot of pain before the game but didn't tell the team
until he took himself out after 14 agonizing minutes, which included an
unintentionally soft pass because his arms were so weak.Anthony,
who was 1-of-4 from the floor, hadn't been held below 10 points since
Nov. 28, 2005, when he played just 1 1/2 minutes against New Jersey
before leaving with a sprained ankle after scoring two points.His
franchise-record streak made him the most consistent offensive player
in the NBA since 2005. He's been struggling with his shot this season
but is still averaging 21.1 points while posting career highs in both
rebounds (8.7) and assists (3.9).The fatigued Rockets couldn't capitalize on Anthony's absence, however."As a team we weren't in sync, so it didn't matter who was out there,'' Ron Artest said.Yao
led Houston's balanced production with 18 points but he was just
5-for-12 from the floor as Martin, Nene and Chris Andersen played
terrific defense on the big man."We're not going to back down because he's 7-foot-6,'' Martin said.Nene
had 17 points and 10 boards for the Nuggets, who took a 48-44 halftime
lead thanks to two 3-pointers from J.R. Smith in the closing minutes of
the first half. Smith, who has been in and out of coach George Karl's
dog house for lapses in play and professionalism, finished with 19
points."I told him way to bounce back,'' Martin said. "That's a
sign of a true professional that he's grown a lot over the last couple
of years.''Smith said he hopes he and Karl will soon "kiss and make up.''More disciplined performances like this wouldn't hurt."It's
all about what he can do for us out there on the court,'' Martin said.
"He can't help us on the bench and I think he realizes that.''After
Billups sank a trio of 3-pointers in the key spurt that put Denver in
control 72-58, the Rockets chipped away, pulling to 89-84 with 7 1/2
minutes left on consecutive baskets by Carl Landry, capping a 9-2 run.Andersen
halted Houston's momentum with a pair of free throws and Nene's basket
off Billups' 10th assist made it 97-86 with five minutes left."They
responded,'' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "You've got to give
Billups a lot of credit, he really took the game over that second half.
Made a lot shots, which he's capable of, and he made some nice
playmaking plays to find other people when we were coming at him.''Notes:
The Rockets missed just four of their 26 free throws but two in crunch
time. ... Billups has topped 20 points six times for Denver and he's
led the Nuggets in scoring a half dozen times.

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