Denver 109, Milwaukee 102

MILWAUKEE, Feb. 10 (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets had an eventful two-game road trip.

They swept both games, Carmelo Anthony was named an All-Star, coach George Karl cracked one liners and the Nuggets saw a bizarre fourth-quarter strategy employed by the desperate Bucks.

Anthony scored 29 points, and Nene had 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Nuggets held on to beat Milwaukee 109-102 on Saturday night to improve to 12-10 away from Denver this season.

It's the Nuggets' best start on the road since joining the NBA in 1976.

"Maybe we should play 82 on the road,'' Karl deadpanned.

The Nuggets have certainly played well outside of Denver, where they are 13-14, but this one wasn't easy against a team they've dominated in recent years by winning eight of the last nine.

Earl Boykins scored 26 points and went 6-of-7 from 3-point range for Milwaukee, which is 3-17 since Jan. 1 and hasn't beaten the Nuggets at home since Karl led the Bucks in 2002-03.

Karl said Anthony, who had 10 assists and eight rebounds, looked loose, and Anthony himself acknowledged he was relieved after being named an All-Star on Friday before Denver beat Indiana 102-95. The Nuggets didn't have Allen Iverson (ankle) or leading rebounding Marcus Camby (flulike symptoms) on the trip, so Anthony stepped up.

"I just told my team we've got to have fun, put all that stuff behind us, put the injuries behind us,'' Anthony said. "These last couple of games, that's what I've been doing, just having fun.''

Anthony converted a three-point play with 2:18 left to give Denver a 102-97 lead, but Boykins, playing his former team for the first time since being traded Jan. 11, answered with a 3 and a layup to tie it at 102 with 1:21 left.

Eduardo Najera, who finished with 15 points, made a jumper with just under a minute to play, and then smothered Ruben Patterson on defense, forcing a bad shot.

Nene grabbed the rebound and hit one free throw to make it 105-102.

On the next possession, the ball was batted out of bounds during a scramble after Mo Williams' shot was deflected by Najera and Charlie Bell failed to get an inbounds pass to Patterson from the baseline. Nene came up with the loose ball and hit both free throws to make it 107-102 with 26.9 seconds left and end Milwaukee's chances.

"They made the hustle plays,'' Williams said. "Najera came out of nowhere ... I thought I had an easy layup. Those are the types of plays that win games.''

J.R. Smith scored 16 points, Linas Kleiza 12 points and Steve Blake 10 points and 11 assists for the Nuggets. Williams and Bell had 16 points each, and Patterson added 13 for the Bucks.

The teams' recent histories are tightly woven together. Karl coached Milwaukee from 1998-2003, and Stotts was an assistant under Karl. The Bucks also sent Joe Smith to Denver for Patterson in August, and Smith was later dealt to Philadelphia in the Iverson deal. Last month, Milwaukee traded Blake to the Nuggets for Boykins and Julius Hodge.

Patterson still has hard feelings about his time in Denver, but Boykins said he doesn't and was joking with former teammates Saturday night.

Denver went cold early in the fourth, going nearly four minutes without a point until a jumper by Najera.

Anthony helped Denver get on track, whipping the ball through the lane to Nene for a three-point play, then stealing a bad pass from Williams and finding Blake for an easy layup to give the Nuggets a 91-83 lead.

But the scrappy Bucks wouldn't go away and climbed back in it by changing strategies.

The Bucks continuously fouled Reggie Evans, a 48.9 percent free-throw shooter this season. Anthony said he hadn't seen a team start doing that with eight minutes left in a game since high school. Evans, who had 10 rebounds, finished 5-of-9 from the free-throw line in the quarter before being pulled for Najera and setting up the final sequence.

Milwaukee did the same thing in a loss to Orlando two weeks earlier by fouling Dwight Howard, which frustrated the young star so much that Bucks coach Terry Stotts apologized to him after the game to tell him it was nothing personal.

Stotts admits he doesn't like the strategy, but Evans was clearly shocked.

"That has never, ever happened to me in the history of my life. Ever,'' he said.

Notes: With 4:55 left in the third quarter, it appeared Anthony had been ejected for his second technical foul. Referee David Jones called the foul and then motioned for an ejection with Anthony raising his arms to question what had happened. Anthony said after the game that Jones said Karl was ejected for two technicals and Anthony had to explain that the first technical was on him. ... Bucks G Michael Redd (sprained left knee) missed his 18th game. ... Boykins played with a splint on his right, shooting hand after hurting his thumb Thursday night against New Orleans.


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