Big lead, fourth quarter, road game in Houston the next night. Camby was all set to kick back and watch the final quarter of the Denver Nuggets' 110-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
But when Cleveland sliced Denver's 25-point lead to 13 with 7:23 remaining in the game, Camby was sent back in. He scored four of his season-high 26 points in the final quarter and grabbed six of his 17 rebounds.
"It's always in the backs of our minds about blowing leads," Camby said. "The guys stepped up down the stretch."
Denver needed to the way LeBron James was playing. James finished with his first triple-double of the season -- 30 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds -- and 10th of his career.
"We contained him," said Allen Iverson, who finished with 25 points and nine assists. "That's all you can do with players like that. You can't play this game scared."
The Cavaliers cut Denver's cushion to 103-98 on Damon Jones' 3-pointer with 3:15 left in the game. But Denver closed the game out with a 7-1 run.
The struggling Cavaliers have now lost four of their last five and dropped into a first-place tie with Washington for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"We've just got to regroup," James said.
The Cavaliers received a scare when Denver's J.R. Smith fell on James' right ankle when both were scrambling for a loose ball late in the fourth quarter. James sat out all of 8 seconds before checking back in.
"It's been better," James said of the ankle.
Carmelo Anthony said earlier in the week this was a painful game to miss. He was looking forward to going up against his good friend James. The two will always be linked as James went first overall in the 2003 NBA draft and Anthony was picked third.
Anthony said he'd watch from his living room as he served his second-to-last game for the suspension he received for his role in a fight with the New York Knicks. Anthony's 15-game suspension will be done after he sits out the game Saturday night. He'll be back Monday night as Denver hosts Memphis.
James wasn't the least bit sorry that Anthony didn't suit up.
"Nah, he ain't my teammate -- no way," James said. "They already killed us on the offensive end, it ain't going to help it. As a competitor, of course I miss him, but not on the court. They definitely are going to be a dangerous team."
Smith was suffering from the flu and missed the Friday morning shootaround. He didn't come out onto the court until 6:56 remaining in the first quarter yet he finished with 14 points, the most he's scored since coming off his 10-game suspension earlier this month.
"I feel better," he said.
The Nuggets were gushing over Camby's play after the game.
"I've never seen him score like that," Smith said.
"He played like an All-Star center for us," coach George Karl said.
The Nuggets have watched third quarter leads slip away in five home games this season. But not on Friday night.
"We'll take it," Iverson said. "By 50 points or a point, we'll take it. If we'd have lost, it would have been bad. I like the results we had."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown certainly wasn't pleased. He was clearly frustrated after the game.
"I don't know what it is yet, but I'm definitely going to find out," he said. "We keep thinking offensively we're bad, offensively we're bad, offensively we're bad. Yes, we will be bad offensively if we come down and take the first shot, if we come down and take a jump shot without moving the basketball, if we come down and take a shot after one pass. That's what we did tonight. That's the way the Denver Nuggets play. That's the way the Seattle SuperSonics play. That's how teams out West play. They want to get out and run the floor and if we fall into that trap, we will get beat every single time on the floor. ... We don't play a rat race. We don't play a high-tempo basketball game."
James and Anthony were teammates on Team USA at the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan. The team won a bronze medal. ... Donyell Marshall had 14 points, including four 3-pointers. ... The Nuggets have won six of their last seven meetings against Cleveland in Denver.