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Nuggets rally past Clippers for fifth straight win

DENVER (AP) -- Don't tell the Denver Nuggets this was just
another game. Not after what the Los Angeles Clippers did to them
in the playoffs last year.

Carmelo Anthony had 33 points, J.R. Smith added 23 and the
Nuggets got at least a small amount of revenge against their
nemesis, beating the Clippers 103-88 on Sunday night for their
fifth straight win.

"I think there was a little anger there," Nuggets coach George
Karl said. "I know I said in the huddle a couple of times that we
owe this team."

The Nuggets won the Northwest Division of the Western Conference
last season, yet opened the playoffs on the road because the
sixth-seeded Clippers had a better record. There also was
speculation that Los Angeles didn't give its best effort in its
season finale against Memphis so it could face Denver instead of
the powerful Dallas Mavericks.

The Nuggets were irritated, but couldn't do anything about it,
losing a testy five-game series to the Clippers. And it didn't get
any better for Denver in this year's season-opener, with Los
Angeles beating the Nuggets 96-95 in a game in which Anthony got
ejected.

The Nuggets took out their frustration on the road-weary and
injury-depleted Clippers this time, starting strong in the first
and third quarters for their second win in the last nine games
against Los Angeles. Playing one of its best all-around games of
the season, the NBA's highest-scoring team shot 51 percent and had
27 assists to win for the eighth time in nine games since an 0-3
start.

Andre Miller had 14 points and 10 assists, Marcus Camby blocked
six shots and Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer, went over 30
points for the ninth time in 12 games.

"The last game left a bad taste in our mouth and that's all we
talked about," said Joe Smith, who thwarted the Clippers' double
teaming ploy with 15 points. "We just wanted to go out there and
do whatever we can to defend our home court, do whatever it takes
to get this win against the Clippers because of what happened in
the playoffs last year."

Los Angeles blew a 16-point lead in a 104-96 loss to Minnesota
the night before and had trouble shaking off the effects, dropping
to 0-5 on the road.

Forcing up bad shots and dribbling into double teams that led to
turnovers, the Clippers missed nine of their first 11 shots to
trail by nine after six minutes, and were down 36-21 early in the
second quarter.

"We got off to a bad start in the first quarter," Clippers
coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We turned the ball over and let them
get offensive boards and build a lead on us."

Los Angeles cleaned it up briefly midway through the second,
using a 13-2 run to get within four, but that was it.

Already playing without center Chris Kaman, who sprained his
ankle against the Timberwolves, Los Angeles lost point guard Sam
Cassell for most of the second half with a sprained left ankle.

Cassell, the catalyst for the Clippers' win over the Nuggets in
the first round of last year's playoffs, was 1-of-4 in just seven
first-half minutes and lasted two minutes in the third quarter
before coming out.

That left the Clippers with two big holes instead of one and
Denver took advantage, opening the second half with a 13-4 run that
led to an 87-70 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Corey Maggette had 22 points to lead Los Angeles, which shot 36
percent to lose its fourth straight.

"This isn't the way we play," Cassell said. "We aren't in a
rhythm. We can't get a rhythm. You can get it back or it can get
worse."

The Clippers gave Anthony fits in last year's playoffs, holding
him to 33 percent shooting in the five-game series. They didn't
have much success this time.

Los Angeles tried to double team him early, but Anthony got
three quick assists on kickouts. The Clippers abandoned the
double-team strategy for a short time, leaving Quinton Ross alone
on Anthony, and that didn't work, either.

Anthony bulled his way past the much-smaller Ross on a post move
and scored on a couple of alley-oops, finishing the first half with
16 points. He kept it going in the second, getting another
alley-oop and a pair of jumpers to push Denver's lead to 69-56
midway through the third quarter.

"Anytime we play them there's some type of specialness to the
game," Anthony said. "We played pretty good, we won the game, so
I'm happy."

Game notes
The Clippers are the middle of playing four times in five
nights, with games against Sacramento on Tuesday and Memphis the
next night. ... Part of the cast from the HBO series "The Wire"
attended the game.