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News » First losing streak hits Carmelo Anthony scores 30 points in Denver's final game without J.R. Smith. HAWKS 125, NUGGETS 100

First losing streak hits Carmelo Anthony scores 30 points in Denver's final game without J.R. Smith. HAWKS 125, NUGGETS 100

First losing streak hits Carmelo Anthony scores 30 points in Denver's final game without J.R. Smith. HAWKS 125, NUGGETS 100 ATLANTA - Once a virile NBA center, veteran Jason Collins now has a body suited for a warm-up suit. The Atlanta reserve is listed at 7-feet, 265 pounds, but the guy looks as big as Savannah. Only on rare occasions does he squeeze out of that suit and tread up and down the court, and that's when you know things are going badly for an opponent.

Such was the case Saturday night for the Nuggets , who lost 125-100 and inspired Hawks coach Mike Woodson to play his 12th man during garbage time. Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups combined for 57 points, sure, but the rest of the fellows totaled just 43 in the team's second consecutive loss, both on the road to talented teams.

"No one should feel happy about what went on, but no one should feel like it's broken, either," said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team is 5-2. "Anytime you go on a six-game road trip, if you can win half your games or more, it's a great success, and we have a chance of doing it."

The Nuggets did get good news amid the debacle - the MRI on Kenyon Martin's left leg didn't reveal a fracture, and so he is day to day with a bruised left fibula. The injury occurred during Friday's loss at Miami, and Karl then worried that Martin could be out for a couple of weeks.

"I feel better today than I did yesterday," Martin said Saturday. "I've broken the fibula twice in my right leg, and that's the way (the injury first) felt. ? But I can tolerate playing. I'm not worried, man."

With the defeat to the Hawks (5-2), Denver lost its annual game in Atlanta for the third straight season, and it finished 5-2 in the seven games without suspended guard J.R. Smith, who returns Tuesday at Chicago.

Without Smith and Martin on Saturday, Karl got creative with his rotations, starting Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman, two scrappy players who might not play much this season - at least when the team is healthy. It was a salty move, but Balkman got in foul trouble during the anthem, and although Graham played some good defense on Joe Johnson, he couldn't sustain it all night against the all-star.

While the home team connected on 30 assists and committed just eight turnovers, the Nuggets were rusty, shooting 2-for-10 from 3-point range and never winning a quarter.

"Offensively, we take way too many tough shots," Karl said, "and a lot of that should be on me.

"We don't have enough sets in right now, and today our playbook was limited because Kenyon gives us a versatility, and I think we missed that."

Billups adjusted nicely to the fast-paced game in Atlanta, following a slogging pace the night before in Miami, when the Heat methodically slowed down the Nuggets' point guard. Billups finished with 27 points and seven assists.

And Anthony scored a game-high 30 - he has now played seven games with a lowest scoring total of 22. His average last season was 22.8.

Melo entered the night third in the NBA with 11.7 free throws per game, a number that will go up after 18 on Saturday (he made 15).

"We're still in a great position," said Anthony, whose team has two more games on this six-game road trip. "I wish I could have done more for us to win this game in Atlanta."

Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or

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