NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets extended their winning streak to five with a 102-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.
Chauncey Billups scored 21 points for Denver, which finished with a flourish to break open an 86-all tie with 6:05 to go. Nene added 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Johan Petro had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
David West scored 30 points for New Orleans, which has dropped eight of 10 games. Hornets rookies Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison added 23 and 17 points, respectively, and Julian Wright scored 13 points.
Anthony's fast-break layup gave Denver an 88-86 lead with 5:32 left in the game and Denver slowly pulled away, with Anthony hitting a 19-foot jumper and putback to make it 94-88.
Emeka Okafor's inbound pass was then stolen by Billups, who drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws. Billups then drove hard into the lane to set up Nene's easy dunk to make it 98-88 with 2:46 left.
Okafor sought throughout the game to be assertive offensively against Nene but struggled, going 4 of 12 from the field for nine points to go with nine rebounds.
The Nuggets outrebounded the Hornets 49-36 and the Nuggets cashed in on their 10 offensive rebounds, outscoring New Orleans 15-3 on second-chance points.
The were 21 ties and 19 lead changes in a game that was competitive until the short-handed Hornets, who were without key reserve and defensive specialist James Posey (flu), seemed to run out of steam.
West scored 14 of his points in the third quarter, at one point scoring six straight as the Hornets took a 62-59 lead before Billups tied it with his second 3 of the game.
Thornton's jumper late in the third quarter put New Orleans up 74-73 and the Hornets had a chance to extend their lead when J.R. Smith was called for a blocking foul as Morris Peterson tried to get off a last-second shot from well beyond the 3-point line. Peterson made only one of three free throws, however, and New Orleans' lead was 75-73 heading into the fourth quarter.
Denver's six-point lead was the largest by either team in the opening half. New Orleans stayed close in large part because Thornton came off the bench to score 16 points in 14 minutes, hitting four of his first five 3-point attempts.
His fourth 3 tied the game at 50. Collison then intercepted a pass near Denver's basket and quickly pulled up for a jumper off the glass to make it 52-50.
Nene's free throw pulled Denver to 52-51 at halftime.
NOTES: The Hornets are 7-13 since Chris Paul went out with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery. Head coach Jeff Bower said before tip-off that Paul was cleared for straight-line running, some on-court drills and could return in seven to 10 days. ... Saints coach Sean Payton attended the game with his son, Connor, in courtside seats near the Hornets' bench. The crowd erupted when Payton was shown on the video board, and during a timeout shortly after, Bower shook Payton's hand before walking back to the bench to address his players. ... Denver coach George Karl, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer, did not accompany the Nuggets on their current four-game road trip, which began with a victory in Minnesota on Wednesday.