Anthony takes a dive while leading Nuggets past Pacers
Denver forward hustles his way to 23-point third quarter of blowout victory
Sprawled among his teammates and coaches on the Nuggets’ bench, Carmelo Anthony smiled and pumped his fist as the ball went the other direction.
“Help me up, help me up,” he implored.
Shout it from the rooftops, Nuggets fans: Melo took a dive.
Anthony scored 23 points in the third quarter of Denver’s 121-107 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, but one of his best highlights was a hustle play that preceded his offensive outburst.
With the Nuggets trying to pull away from the Pacers, Kenyon Martin swatted a shot by Tyler Hansbrough, and the ball looked destined to go out of bounds.
Anthony had other plans, diving head-first into his own bench to save ball back to Martin. It took several seconds for his teammates to prop him back up, but Anthony re-joined the action in time to knock down a three-pointer at the other end.
“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t have no brakes,” Anthony said of his dive. “I just went all-out. I think that was the momentum-changer. We picked it up after that.”
Did they ever.
Led by Anthony’s career-high six three-pointers – all coming in the third quarter – and 36 points, the Nuggets built a 25-point lead and easily avenged their 31-point loss at Indiana on Nov. 9.
In that first meeting, the Pacers made 20 of 21 shots and scored 54 points in the third quarter. They missed their first four shots after halftime on Sunday, fueling the Denver blowout.
“We were trying to score as many points as we can because they did that to us when we were out there,” Nuggets backup point guard Ty Lawson said. “We were up 25, so I think we did our job.”
Lawson finished with 13 points and five assists off the bench, while center Nene had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four steals to help Denver (25-18) get a victory in advance of its upcoming five-game road trip.
“If we want to assert ourselves, we have to win some (road) games,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I think it’s a trip that we’ve got to win more than half – three out of five – and start the ball rolling early.”
Before leaving town, the Nuggets left the Pepsi Center crowd with plenty to talk about around the water cooler on Monday.
Indiana’s strategy to leave Anthony open on the perimeter might be a good place to start the conversation.
Anthony took advantage of his uncontested looks and made 6 of 7 three-pointers in a 9:28 stretch that helped the Nuggets push their lead from 10 points to 21. He entered the game shooting .250 from long range and was 6-for-40 from beyond the arc in his previous 21 games combined.
“They were leaving him open,” Lawson said. “I don’t know why they were leaving the best player on the court wide open. Good for him. I like to see a show like that every once in a while.”
While Anthony was finding his groove, the Nuggets caused all kinds of problems for Indiana’s leading scorer, Danny Granger. Granger entered the game averaging 21.5 points but was held to eight points on 2-of-10 shooting; it was just the third time in 40 games this season that he didn’t reach double figures.
“We kind of took the scheme that we used against (Oklahoma City forward Kevin) Durant,” Karl said. “Instead of giving him catch-and-shoot, we wanted to switch out on him, and then when he dribbled, try to crowd him. I think our bigs did a nice job of crowding and disrupting Granger’s rhythm.”
Denver improved to 15-6 against teams under .500 and will have an opportunity to improve upon that mark during the road trip. None of the next five opponents has a winning record, but the Nuggets can’t take anything for granted considering their 5-13 road record.
“We've only won five games. For a good team, I think that's sort of embarrassing,” point guard Chauncey Billups said. “We can get a lot better. I don't think we're a five-win team on the road; I think we're better than that. It's time for us to start showing that.”
ETC: Denver reserve forward Al Harrington scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting; the Nuggets are 10-5 when he scores at least 15 points … Anthony’s previous career-high for three-pointers came during his rookie year. He hit five against Houston on Dec. 26, 2003 … The Nuggets boosted their league-leading scoring average to 107.4 points per game; they are averaging 116.6 points over the past seven games.