NBA: Series opener goes to Denver, 109-85
By Arnie Stapleton
DENVER ó If not for Nene’s breakout first half, Carmelo Anthony’s fourth-quarter fireworks and Anthony Carter’s defensive deftness wouldn’t have mattered much.
Nene kept Denver in it until his teammates could turn this one into another laugher, scoring 18 of his playoff career-high 24 points in the first half of the Nuggets’ 109-95 rout of the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in the opener of their second-round series. “‘Melo in foul trouble and kind of searching for an offensive confidence, we got it from Nene,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “The balance of our team has quietly been a strength of who we are.”
The Nuggets poured it on the second half thanks to 20 Dallas turnovers, eight by Jason Kidd, who turned over the ball just three times in the first round. The Nuggets outscored the Mavericks 29-4 on fast breaks, but the disparity that really bothered Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was the 36-13 advantage Denver had at the line.
“We’re going to have to raise our level of aggression if that’s what’s going to get us to the free throw line,” said Carlisle, who was particularly bothered that Dirk Nowitzki took just four foul shots plus a technical.
“I’ll look at that closely, and if the referees were right, they were right. But he’s being played very physically.”
Point guards Chauncey Billups and Carter took turns leading the way at both ends of the floor, and Anthony scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. Billups was introduced before Denver’s win by one of his childhood heroes: Hall of Famer John Elway.
Elway donned a Billups’ No. 7 jersey when he walked to halfcourt and introduced the Denver native.
“There’s only ever going to be one No. 7 in this town, and that’s John Elway,” Billups said after the game.
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