DENVER (AP) -Two months ago, Carmelo Anthony nearly joined the New Jersey Nets. On Saturday, he showed them what they're missing.
Anthony had 28 points and eight rebounds, and hit a key bucket down the stretch as the Denver Nuggets held off New Jersey 107-103.
Anthony might have been wearing a New Jersey uniform Saturday if a potential deal between the Nets and Nuggets didn't fall through on the eve of training camp.
The four-team deal, which included Utah and Charlotte, would have sent the Brooklyn-born Anthony to the Nets, who are planning a move to the borough.
``That didn't bother me. I don't think about that,' Anthony said. ``Tonight was a game for me, personally, I wanted to come out of the gate and set the tone after that Thursday game in Portland. I wanted to get back on the right track.'
One of the players in the deal for Anthony would have been Derrick Favors, who scored a season-high 14 points off the bench. The 19-year-old Favors said before the game the rumors didn't bother him.
``I didn't pay attention to it,' he said. ``Not when it came up on TV or on the Internet. I just concentrated on playing basketball.'
The Nuggets shopped their All-Star forward because Anthony has yet to sign a three-year, $65 million extension that was put on the table in June. The Nuggets also talked with New York and Chicago, but the most serious discussions were with New Jersey.
He would have joined a young nucleus that played well Saturday. Third-year center Brook Lopez scored 20 points to lead seven New Jersey players in double figures.
Anthony said he was impressed with the way coach Avery Johnson has the Nets playing.
``Avery's headed in the right direction,' he said. ``Hopefully they can keep playing the way they're playing and get some wins under their belt.'
The Nets, who played a tough game in Sacramento on Friday, hung with the Nuggets until late in the game. They trailed by 13 but cut the deficit to two midway through the final period.
A three-point play by Anthony with 5:55 left and two free throws by Nene pushed the lead to 99-93. The Nets missed four straight shots before Chauncey Billups found Nene underneath for an easy layup.
Nene had 22 points and Ty Lawson scored 15 off the bench for the Nuggets.
Anthony hit a 6-foot bank shot over Travis Outlaw to make it 105-101 with 1:25 left, a play that upset Johnson.
``I saw an offensive foul on the Nuggets player,' he said. ``Boy, that's a tough one to swallow. Tough one to swallow.'
Anthony saw it differently.
``He tried to take a charge but luckily I didn't extend my arm,' he said. ``He tried to jump in front of me and I stopped on a dime and made the shot.'
The Nets didn't go away. Devin Harris' layup with 45 seconds left made it 105-103. They had a chance to tie, but Lopez's layup with 14.9 seconds left rolled off the rim and Anthony clinched the win with two free throws with 13.5 seconds remaining.
``Avery is telling me constantly, 'Hook dunk it. Hook dunk it.' That was one of the times I wish I had,' Lopez said.
Said Nuggets coach George Karl: ``We got near him, crowded him, maybe bumped him a little bit. I'm glad he missed it.'
Notes: Billups suffered a nose fracture, chipped tooth and a sprained right wrist when he landed face first on a drive to the basket late in the first quarter. He was fouled on the play and hit two free throws before going to the locker room to get three stitches in his nose. He returned midway through the second quarter. He is day to day. ... The Nets lost the last three games on their four-game western trip. ... The Nuggets have won seven of their last eight games against the Nets.
The Associated Press News Service
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