Billups, who came to Denver last week in a deal that sent Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons, said he's still getting used to his new teammates. That didn't stop him from playing a key role despite shooting 2-of-13 from the field.
"This is like night and day from what I'm used to, and that's not a bad thing," Billups said. "With the way our schedule is stacked, we don't have a lot of practice time. Our practice is in the game. That can be difficult sometimes and can lead to some bad turnovers."
The Nuggets had 22 turnovers, but they played tough defense in the second half, holding Memphis to 36 points and 28 percent shooting. They shut down rookie guard O.J. Mayo, who scored a season-high 31 but managed only five after halftime.
"They were more aggressive towards me," Mayo said of the second half.
In the first quarter, Mayo was nearly unstoppable. He was 8-of-9 from the field and hit all three of his 3-pointers in the first period. But after scoring 20 points in the opening quarter, he ran into foul trouble and picked up his third with 3:03 left in the first half.
"I don't think they took his shooting seriously in the first half," Memphis coach Marc Iavoroni said. "They gave him some wide-open looks."
When Mayo cooled off, Billups started spreading the wealth. With Denver trailing by 10, Billups came back into the game and had six assists in a span of 7 minutes, including four in a row that set up layups and fast-break dunks for his teammates. By the time there was 3 minutes left in the half, Denver led 49-47.
"Anytime you have a general like Chauncey Billups on the floor, he's going to make sure everybody is involved," Mayo said. "He will get his teammates into their strength."
The Grizzlies led by five early in the third quarter before the Nuggets used a balanced attack to surge into the lead for good. Anthony's layup tied it at 58, and Dahntay Jones' three-point play and Nene's dunk gave Denver a 63-58 advantage midway through the period.
Nene had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who had six players score in double figures.
"When you've got that many weapons I think it's tough to load up on everybody," Billups said. "In the past, you could just load up on Melo and hope that he doesn't get more than 30. If you've got a lot of guys rolling, it makes you better."
Leading 80-76 early in the fourth quarter, Anthony hit a technical free throw and then slammed home a rebound to push the lead to seven.
Billups hit four free throws and Renaldo Balkman, who had 12 points, had three more and a dunk to push the lead to 92-80 with 4:59 left. Memphis got no closer than 10 after that in a game that had 61 fouls called and 83 free throws.
"It's a trait of a good team winning ugly," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Bad teams don't win ugly."
Nuggets F Kenyon Martin was scratched from the lineup with a sprained left wrist suffered Friday against Dallas. Karl said Martin is day-to-day. ... Nuggets C Steven Hunter is scheduled to have surgery on his right knee this week and could miss at least two months. ... Denver is expected to complete a buyout of F Antonio McDyess' contract Monday. McDyess was acquired, along with Billups and Cheikh Samb, from Detroit for Allen Iverson last week. ... Nuggets F Chris Andersen suffered a fractured rib trying to draw a charge in the third quarter.