"I'm a big believer that injuries can be positive," Denver
coach George Karl said after Monday night's 104-93 win over the
Charlotte Bobcats. "It was fun coaching the game. We had a
play-hard intensity to us that we need every night. Some guys that
haven't played gave us that. That's a compliment to them."
Picking up the offensive slack in the absence of leading scorer
Carmelo Anthony (ankle), Billups scored 27 points and Arron Afflalo
matched a career high with 24 points in Denver's season-high
seventh straight win.
The Nuggets also lost forward Kenyon Martin to an ejection late
in the second quarter when he argued with officials over a foul
call against teammate J.R. Smith. Early in the fourth, Chris Andersen got his feet tangled underneath the basket and crashed to
the floor with a sprained ankle. The injury knocked him out for the
rest of the game. Andersen is day to day.
But the Nuggets got 13 points from Joey Graham, making a rare
start in place of the injured Anthony, and little used Malik Allen
brought tough defensive play and rebounding in 20 minutes on the
floor in place of Martin and Andersen. Nene chipped in with 17
points and Smith, who drew management's ire by sulking on the bench
last Saturday against New Orleans, contributed 12 points.
"We knew without Melo we were going to be short-handed,"
Billups said. "When Kenyon went out, we knew guys were going to
have to step up and have some big nights. Arron was awesome, J.R.
played really good and Joey was great. Everybody who got the
opportunity came in and played well."
Charlotte's Raymond Felton said the short-handed Nuggets gave
more than the Bobcats could handle.
"I'd rather play a team when they've got everybody than when
they've got somebody out," Felton said. "That's when a team
really elevates their game and that's what they did tonight.
"Afflalo was 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 from 3-point
range. I'm not saying that's not normal for him, but that was a
great game. He stepped up his game. So you're getting guys' best
games when they're missing their top player."
The Bobcats kept the game close most the way, trailing 29-26
after the first quarter and 56-52 at halftime.
But the Nuggets began pulling away midway through the third
After Nazr Mohammed's dunk pulled the Bobcats to 64-61,
Billups, who also had 11 assists, converted a three-point play to
start a 13-4 run that carried the Nuggets to a 77-65 lead with 3:58
remaining in the third quarter.
Joey Graham scored six of his points in the surge and Afflalo
hit a key 3-pointer.
"I was just trying to find a good rhythm in shooting and I've
got to thank my teammates for that, creating all the plays,"
Afflalo said. "I'm just out there trying to make shots."
When Smith connected on a 3-pointer, the Nuggets had an 84-73
lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats pulled to 91-80 on a layup by Wallace but Nene made
a pair of free throws and Afflalo, who made six of seven from
3-point range, connected again from beyond the arc to give the
Nuggets a 96-80 lead with 6:01 remaining.
Joey Graham's twin brother, Stephen, is a member of the
Bobcats. ... Jackson has scored in double figures in all 34 games
since joining Charlotte as part of a trade with Golden State,
including 10 of 20 points or more. ... Anthony, who sprained his
ankle Saturday against New Orleans, is expected to be ready to play
Wednesday, when the Nuggets are at Houston, Nuggets coach George
Karl said. ... Charlotte fell to 0-4 against Western Conference
teams. ... Denver improved to 21-3 at the Pepsi Center, the
second-best home record in the league this season.