Who needs Carmelo Anthony?
The New Jersey Nets certainly didn't in their first game against Melo and his Nuggets since owner Mikhail Prokhorov told his team to halt lingering trade talks with Denver for the All-Star forward a little less than two weeks ago.
Brook Lopez scored 27 points, Devin Harris had a career-high 18 assists and the Nets gave Anthony an indication why he might want to play for New Jersey with a 115-99 victory Monday night.
"This was something I never experienced before with the trade situation, so not just me, everyone was fired up" said Nets guard Anthony Morrow, who was part of the 15-player, three-team deal that Prokhorov suddenly ended because he felt it was hurting his team.
It showed. The Nets hit 53.2 percent from the field, shot 60 percent from 3-point range, forced 16 turnovers and outrebounded the Nuggets 38-27.
Morrow said it was nothing personal against Anthony, but it was a desire to show that the Nets (15-34) are good enough to win with their current personnel. They are 5-3 since the talks ended.
"Everyone had that chip on their shoulder," said Morrow, who scored 18 points on 6 of 6 from the field. "You could kind of see the look in guys eyes even this morning at shootaround. It's a situation we're just glad we're still here and wish them the best of luck the rest of the season."
Anthony gave the fans who jeered and cheered him at different times a clear indication why he is so valued, scoring 37 points — two shy of his season high — to keep his team in the game.
Anthony, who continues to be involved in trade speculation with the NBA deadline on Feb. 24 approaching, wasn't surprised by the Nets' effort.
"Why shouldn't they feel a little extra motivated tonight in a game like this, knowing that their names have been in cahoots with the Denver Nuggets for the past couple of months," Anthony said.
Anthony also felt the credit for the Nets' turnaround belongs to Prokhorov.
"I think he really did it more for his team," Anthony said. "Ever since he made that statement, they've been playing hard. They seem like they're committed and as a result they beat us tonight."
Travis Outlaw scored 13 of his 20 points in a big first quarter and Kris Humphries had 15 and nine rebounds for New Jersey, which hit 9 of 15 3-pointers.
Harris and Lopez insisted the Nets were more concerned about ending a two-game losing streak than making a statement about the proposed trade, which had players worried about their future for weeks.
Harris came close though.
"As a player, you always have that pride, you want to take it upon yourself and know that we think we have enough to win," he said. "It's not always within our control, but this is the best way we can speak for ourselves, going out and giving it a great effort like we did tonight."
Chauncey Billups, who was also supposed to be sent to New Jersey in the deal, had 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Nene added 16.
New Jersey never trailed after the opening minutes and led by as many as 18 points in the first half.
However, Melo wouldn't let the Nuggets go away and Harris, who was the major part in the Nets deal to the Nuggets, wouldn't let Denver get over the hump in its comeback.
Trailing 82-69 with 2:36 left in the third quarter, Anthony hit a jumper to ignite a 9-3 run that featured six of Billups' 11 points in the quarter.
The lead shrunk and it looked as if it was down to 85-81 when J.R. Smith hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was reviewed and waved off because the shot left his hand a split second too late.
Denver managed to cut the lead to four points three times in the fourth quarter, the last at 96-92 on a drive and jam by Nene with 7:43 to play.
Harris then drove for a layup to ignite an 8-1 run that ended with six free throws, one courtesy of a technical against Billups, who was miffed a foul wasn't called when he was stripped for his seventh turnover.
Denver never got close after that.
New Jersey scored hit 25 of 40 shots from the field in the first half, including 6 of 8 from long range, in taking a 63-50 lead over the Nuggets, who were losing their second game in as many nights.
The halftime point total was a season high for New Jersey, which needed it because Anthony was single-handedly almost as good.
Melo scored 23 in the half, hitting 6 of 12 from the field and 9 of 10 free throws.
NOTES: Nets backup guard Jordan Farmar missed his third straight game with a back strain. ...Ben Uzoh got his playing time and had six points and four assists. ... Former Net Kenyon Martin returned to the Nuggets lineup after sitting out the game in Philadelphia because of concerns over his knee.