DENVER(AP) With Carmelo Anthony sidelined with a broken a bone in his right hand, the Denver Nuggets needed somebody to fill the void.
Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith are doing their best to make up for the All-Star's absence.
Kleiza scored 27 points, Smith had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists and the Denver Nuggets used strong second and third quarters to beat the Sacramento Kings 118-99 on Tuesday night.
Chauncey Billups had 22 points and Nene 13 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, which outscored the Kings 71-44 in the middle frames thanks to some strong play from Kleiza and Smith.
"They were good offensively,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. "LK was great and J.R. made some great passes.''
Anthony, who was injured against Indiana on Jan. 5, leads the Nuggets in scoring at 21.1 points a game. In the seven games since Anthony was hurt, Kleiza is averaging 15.3 points and Smith 15 and the Nuggets are 4-3.
In Monday's loss at Houston, Smith had 17 points in the fourth quarter and led the team with 24. Kleiza had a team-high 26 in a loss to Orlando on Saturday.
Despite those performances, Karl sees room for improvement.
"The thing with both J.R. and L.K is the turnovers and the defensive, cheap possessions they give you,'' Karl said. "Taking short cuts and getting caught. I thought J.R. had some great passes in the third quarter, but he also had some passes you just go, hmmm, interesting.''
They both played key roles in getting Denver back in the game.
The Nuggets trailed by as many as 10 in the second quarter when Kleiza and Smith led the charge back. Kleiza had 11 points and Smith scored nine points when Denver outscored the Kings 19-4 over a 5:28 span to take a 43-38 lead.
The Nuggets extended the lead to 48-42 on free throws by Billups and Nene, and then Smith's flying left-handed dunk and Kleiza's driving layup made it 52-42 with 2:30 left in the half. Denver pushed the lead to 12 before settling for a 57-45 lead at the half.
"We kind of struggled in the first quarter a little bit,'' Kleiza said. "We did a good job in the second quarter, we played great defense got on the fast break and that was the difference.''
Kevin Martin led Sacramento with 25 points and rookie Jason Thompson had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who fell behind by 30 in the fourth quarter.
"Looked like lay-up drills for them,'' Kings guard Bobby Jackson said. "It was lay-up drill central, just like it has been all year.''
The Kings have lost three of their last four.
"A bad, bad night for us, to say the least,'' Sacramento interim head coach Kenny Natt said. "We lost our focus and we gave up a lot of easy baskets, transition points. They got a lot of layups. We didn't defend hard and they took advantage of every opportunity that was there.''
The Nuggets put the game out of reach early in the third, going on a 17-4 run to start the half. Billups scored 16 points in the quarter as the Nuggets, who led by as many as 24, took a 94-75 lead into the fourth.
"Great job by our bench,'' Billups said. "They won the game for us.''
The game was tight through the first quarter.
Sacramento's Francisco Garcia hit a running 3-pointer from the top of the arc with .5 seconds left in the first quarter and was fouled by Martin. Garcia hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Kings a 31-23 lead heading into the second quarter.
Notes: Nuggets G Dahntay Jones separated his right shoulder in a collision during pregame workouts. X-rays showed there was no fracture of the clavicle, and he is day-to-day. ... Martin has scored 20 or more points in 11 straight games. The last time he didn't score 20 was when he had eight against Denver on Dec. 6 ... Nene's double-double was his 13th of the season, which is his single-season high. He had 12 in 2003-04.