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Melo paces Denver in win, sits out fourth with injury

DENVER -- Once again at the Pepsi Center, the defense was
dismal, the shots were wild and crazy and the crowd had seen enough
to stream for the exits midway through the fourth quarter.

For once, Denver coach George Karl could laugh it all off.

Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith scored 28 points apiece and the
Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 123-111 Monday night in the
duo's best combined performance since their suspensions for
fighting back in December.

The Warriors were without their leading scorer, guard
Baron Davis, who is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on
Tuesday. And guard Stephen Jackson didn't arrive until halftime
after testifying in a trial in Indianapolis of a man who hit him
with a car during a fight outside a strip club last fall. The man
was convicted Monday in a ruling by a judge.

"I wanted play so badly that my body was already basically
loose. I just didn't get here in enough time to be a factor," said
Jackson, who scored nine points.

The Nuggets tightened their defense enough to surge to a big
lead early in the fourth quarter, and that's when things got out of
hand in Karl's eyes.

"Tonight, when we got the 24-point lead, we had five
possessions of shot selections that were awful, it was a joke. A
high school coach would have taken everybody out of the game,"
Karl said. "But we have a tendency when the scoreboard says it's
OK to go goofy, we go goofy."

Karl was particularly puzzled by Smith's errant 27-foot jumper
with 9½ minutes left and the Nuggets ahead by 19.

"Everybody knew he was going to do it. We had a bet on the
bench and everybody knew he would do it," Karl said. "So, he's
very predictable. And I have no idea how to change it other than
taking him out of the game and sitting him down."

That, he didn't do. He already had Anthony on the bench with a
bruised right thigh.

Smith left the arena without addressing his head-scratching
shot, but Anthony eagerly stuck up for him.

"As long as he doesn't take too many crazy shots, we can cover
for him," Anthony said.

Eduardo Najera also threw up an uncharacteristic bad shot that
had Karl befuddled.

"When you're playing great, don't change how you're playing.
Keep playing. But no, the scoreboard says, maybe I can take one
now. I mean, Eddie Najera. I love Eddie. What the hell was that?"
Karl said. "I mean, OK, yeah, three days before the All-Star
break, we're up 25. But we need to build on the good stuff, not the
bad stuff."

The Nuggets will head into the All-Star break with a 14-14 home
record. Eight of those losses have come against sub.-500 teams, but
the Warriors were too short-handed to join the club.

Jackson arrived at halftime after his flight was diverted to
Colorado Springs because of fog.

"I got here safe. That was all that mattered," said Jackson,
who started the second half and quickly picked up a technical for
arguing a call with official Jess Kersey.

He testified against Deon Willford, who was found guilty of
felony battery and failure to stop at a scene of an accident, a
misdemeanor, and will be sentenced Feb. 28.

Jackson was booked into jail Oct. 12 and has been free since on
$10,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of
criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of battery and
disorderly conduct in the fight outside Club Rio on Oct. 6. His
trial is April 12. The criminal recklessness charge carries a
prison term of six months to three years.

Willford's car hit Jackson after the fight started. The
defendant testified Monday that the 6-foot-8 player was walking
toward his car and pointing a gun at him. Other witnesses said
Jackson was walking away from Willford's car and had no weapon out
at the time.

"I'm just glad that a part of it's out of the way. I'm ready to
move on," Jackson said of his testimony. "It went well. It's
something I couldn't get around."

Nene had 24 points for Denver and Marcus Camby tied a career
high with seven assists to go with eight points and seven rebounds
in his return from a four-game absence with a pulled groin and the
flu. He looked like he hadn't missed a minute, playing loose and
free and several times dishing the ball behind his back for big
baskets before taking a seat when the game got out of hand.

Al Harrington led the Warriors with 24 points, and
Kelenna Azubuike added 23.

Anthony, named the Western Conference player of the week for the
third time earlier in the day, scored 10 points in the third
quarter as the Nuggets began to break away, and Smith's
buzzer-beating 3 gave Denver a 105-87 lead going into the fourth
quarter.

Game notes
Nuggets G Allen Iverson has missed seven of Denver's last eight games because of a sprained ankle that could keep him from going to his eighth All-Star game. ... The Warriors are 5-8 since
making an eight-player trade with the Pacers on Jan. 17. ... Nelson
said he won't have a timetable for Davis' return until doctors see
how surgery goes.