Anthony shoulders blame after Nuggets fall to Hornets
For the better part of two days, Carmelo Anthony listened to the Nuggets coaching staff emphasize the importance of moving the ball and playing more unselfishly.
When the familiar double-teams came his way Sunday night against the New Orleans Hornets, Anthony took just one shot in the first quarter and recorded three assists.
Against the backdrop of new trade rumors, his deference was irrationally interpreted as indifference.
As speculation about Anthony’s future in Denver reached yet another fever pitch, the Nuggets and their leading scorer struggled to find a rhythm in a 96-87 loss to the Hornets. Anthony ran into foul trouble and finished with eight points on 3-for-11 shooting in 34 minutes.
“I take responsibility for this loss,” he said. “I think I was a little bit too unselfish and a little bit too selfish. Over the last couple days we talked about passing the ball and I think I was a little bit too selfish by not being as aggressive as I normally would be on the offensive end.
“I was passing up shots that I should’ve took. I don’t like looking at the stat sheet, but for me to take 11 shots, that’s out of the norm for me.”
Anthony shrugged off the notion that the latest round of trade rumors had any impact on his play.
“I’ve been playing all year long with speculation, so to say that the speculation bothered me, that’s not even on my mind in a basketball game,” he said.
“I’ve been playing through distractions this whole season. When we’re winning, there’s no distractions. Now when we lose a couple games, I don’t want anybody to think it’s (because of) distractions. It’s just something that we’re not doing as a team. But we’ll be all right. We’ll figure it out.”
Playing without backup point guard Ty Lawson (sprained knee) and big men Chris Andersen (sore right knee) and Kenyon Martin (scheduled rest, knee) the Nuggets lost their third straight game, but didn’t go down without a fight.
Denver (20-16) trailed by 19 early in the third quarter and by 15 in the fourth before going on a 17-5 run led by the hustle and effort of reserves Anthony Carter, Al Harrington and J.R. Smith.
Carter and Harrington combined for three 3-pointers and Smith took two charges during the rally. Smith also had a steal and a breakaway dunk that pulled Denver to 86-83 with 4:47 remaining.
“I thought Anthony Carter was sensational,” Karl said. “He played hard and created some gain for us. Al Harrington gave us a good game, and J.R. made some great defensive plays.”
The game turned when Smith was called for a tough foul against David West, whose three-point play pushed the lead back to six. West appeared hook Smith with his elbow as he knocked him to the floor, but the call went in favor of New Orleans.
After Anthony missed a jumper at the other end, Chris Paul knocked down a three-pointer to give New Orleans a nine-point lead with 2:47 remaining; the Nuggets never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
“They took it from three to nine on two possessions and kind of broke our heart a little bit,” Karl said.
As for Anthony’s play, Karl was happy to see his star player share the ball early.
“He was in a passing mode,” the coach said. “I always joke with him that he could get 10 assists any time he wanted to. They were giving him a lot of tilt and a lot of double teams. I think he was doing what the game was telling him to do.”
The Nuggets will try to regroup at practice in advance of Tuesday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns. With a three-game losing streak, there is little danger of looking ahead to Thursday’s much-anticipated game against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
“We’re not thinking about the Heat,” Harrington said. “We haven’t talked about them yet. They haven’t done anything yet to be thinking about those guys.”