In the end, the Nuggets beat the Pacers 102-95 on Friday night with the players and coaches who were left.
Denver starters Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby sat out with injuries, and Indiana coach Rick Carlisle and point guard Darrell Armstrong were ejected in the second half. The Pacers lost their third straight home game, largely because they lost their composure.
The normally calm Armstrong started arguing with official Eli Roe midway through the fourth quarter after he disagreed with a call. After Armstrong was given two technicals and thrown out, he followed Roe and continued to talk to him before being restrained by teammates.
Armstrong said the Pacers haven't been treated fairly since the brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans in November 2004.
"Referees are calling our games like we're the brawl team from two years ago," he said. "We're not. We're the team that's playing in 2006 and 2007 and it's just sad because we get treated like that."
Denver took advantage by outscoring the Pacers 20-4 from the line in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets snapped a three-game losing streak.
"When things get a little out of hand, we've got to keep our mouths shut," said Denver guard Linas Kleiza, who scored 15 points. "That team was out of control. We had to be quiet and just finish out the game."
Indiana rallied briefly after Armstrong was ejected. A three-point play by Danny Granger, a 3-pointer by Troy Murphy and a 3-pointer by Granger cut Denver's lead to 89-87 with 4:18 left. The Nuggets made 10 free throws in the final 4:06 to pull away.
In all, Denver shot 43 free throws to Indiana's 13.
"It gets tough when it seems like it's really one-sided," Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal said. "We never get the benefit of the whistle. Everything that's being called is always called against us."
Carlisle was tossed by official Dan Crawford with 9:53 left in the third quarter after getting two technicals for arguing a no-call. Carlisle felt Denver's Nene should have been called for a charge on a move to the hoop that left O'Neal on the ground.
"I told my guys I'll fight for them," he said. "I'll get technicals, I'll get tossed if it's deserved."
About the only normal thing about the game was Carmelo Anthony's high-scoring night. He celebrated his late addition to the Western Conference All-Star team by scoring 34 points.
Anthony, added to the All-Star squad by commissioner David Stern as an injury replacement earlier in the day, shot 11-for-24 from the field and 12-for-13 from the free-throw line. He said his top priority was getting the Nuggets back on track.
"Before the game, I just told my teammates 'Look, we haven't been having any fun out there. Let's just have fun and play the game,'" he said.
Mike Dunleavy scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Granger added 19 points for the Pacers.
Iverson didn't make the trip. He aggravated his sprained ankle during overtime in the Nuggets' loss to New Orleans on Wednesday night. Camby, the league leader in blocks per game and the NBA's second-leading rebounder, sat out with a strained left groin.
Denver coach George Karl was relieved to get a win after the Nuggets had lost seven of their last eight games, especially with two key players out.
"We fought through a lot of hell and a lot of injuries," Karl said. "All of the losses we've had, not one of them have been a bad loss. We're still in a good place."
Camby recently overtook O'Neal for the league lead in blocks per game. ... Anthony was loudly cheered by Indiana fans during pregame introductions. ... Indiana forward Marquis Daniels sat out for the seventh straight game with a sore left knee. ... O'Neal played after sitting out the previous game with a bruised left knee.