Nuggets 117, Pistons 109

Friday, November 12th 2004, 6:54 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik nearly had Carmelo Anthony come off the bench against Detroit.

It's a good thing he didn't.

Playing with the kind of aggressiveness and enthusiasm that had been missing, Anthony broke out of his early season slump with 34 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals to help the Nuggets beat Detroit 117-109 on Thursday night.

``Carmelo played with a vengeance,'' Bzdelik said.

He sure did.

Bzdelik considered using Anthony as a substitute against the Pistons after last season's rookie sensation struggled in the first five games, including three straight losses that dropped Denver to 1-4.

Anthony shrugged off the possibility, but clearly got the message.

With an extra spring in his step from the start, Anthony was far more aggressive than he had been to start the season, going hard to the basket, bulling in for rebounds and hounding the ball on defense.

He scored on a layup with a hard drive for the game's first points, then got out on the break for a dunk. Anthony later scored on another fast-break dunk, hanging on the rim for extra emphasis, and closed out the quarter with a bullet pass to Kenyon Martin for a dunk.

Anthony had 16 points by halftime without having a play called for him and kept it going in the second half, scoring 11 points in the third quarter as Denver built an 88-73 lead. He finished 11-for-20 _ making all three 3-point attempts _ after shooting 31 percent in the first five games.

And after booing him several times the past few games, the fans were clearly back on Anthony's side, giving him a standing ovation after he fouled out with 25 seconds left.

``I needed this night,'' Anthony said. ``As badly as I was shooting, I needed this one. It was good for me and it was good for my team.''

In the only other games Thursday night, Dallas beat Miami 113-93 and Minnesota held off Houston 96-91.

Anthony wasn't the only one who had a breakout game.

The 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins had a career-high 32 points to become the smallest player in league history to eclipse 30 points, doing most of his damage after dislocating his middle finger and putting back in place himself in the first quarter.

Andre Miller added 14 points and six assists, Rodney White hit key shots down the stretch and Denver shot 50 percent _ 7-for-11 from long range _ to end a seven-game losing streak against the defending champions.

``It was a much-needed win for our basketball team,'' Bzdelik said. ``The way we won is the way we have to play, start to finish: scrappy, intense, up and down.''

The Nuggets still almost found a way to lose.

After leading by 15 at the end of the third quarter, Denver started getting sloppy and let the Pistons back in it.

Detroit cut the lead to eight at 104-96 on Antonio McDyess' dunk, then forced three straight turnovers _ two by Boykins _ to get within four on Tayshaun Prince's two free throws with 3 minutes left.

But that proved to be the Pistons' last gasp.

``We came out and we weren't ready to play, we gave them life and we couldn't catch up,'' interim Pistons coach Gar Heard said. ``It wasn't because we planned it that way. We just tried to get our guys to play and for some reason we just couldn't pick it up tonight.''

Richard Hamilton had 25 points, but missed two key free throws in the final minute. Carlos Delfino added 17 points and the Pistons shot 57 percent, but it wasn't enough to overcome 23 turnovers and the absence of Ben Wallace. The two-time NBA defensive player of the year left the team after his brother died of brain cancer Monday.

``Anytime you are missing Ben, it is different,'' said Detroit's Chauncey Billups, who had 16 points before sitting out the fourth quarter with ice taped to his ankle. ``Having the confidence that he is there is big.''

Mavericks 113, Heat 93

At Miami, Dirk Nowitzki had 41 points and Marquis Daniels added 22 to help Dallas end the Heat's perfect start and franchise-record 14-game home winning streak.

Nowitzki made 12 of 24 shots from the field, shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range, made all 13 of his free-throw tries and added 10 rebounds for Dallas (5-1).

Shaquille O'Neal had 22 points _ giving him 22,002 for his career _ and 10 rebounds for the Heat, which lost for the first time in five games this season.

Timberwolves 96, Rockets 91

At Houston, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett hit a jumper with 8.3 seconds left and finished one assist shy of a triple double.

Garnett had 20 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, and Eddie Griffin made a key late 3-pointer. Houston's Tracy McGrady missed the game because of hip and groin strains. Yao Ming scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half for the Rockets.