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News » Season Opener>> Nuggets 114, Jazz 105 Don't mess with Melo Nuggets get it started right with big boost from Anthony's 30 points

Season Opener>> Nuggets 114, Jazz 105 Don't mess with Melo Nuggets get it started right with big boost from Anthony's 30 points

Season Opener>> Nuggets 114, Jazz 105 Don't mess with Melo Nuggets get it started right with big boost from Anthony's 30 points Soaring so high that he should have served peanuts, Carmelo Anthony cocked back his right arm, like he was about to throw a knockout punch. In a way, he did.

In Wednesday night's fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center, Melo unleashed a vicious tomahawk dunk over Utah's Paul Millsap, a heart-

pumping slam that caused the Denver star to beat his own heart with his fist.

The Nuggets won their season opener 114-105. That dunk (with the ensuing free throw due to Millsap's foul) gave the Nuggets a 99-88 lead, deflating the once-peppy Jazz.

Anthony had the distinction of leading the NBA in preseason scoring (23.6 points per game), but more important, he scored effectively and efficiently, maximizing his minutes (averaging 24.1). Would this translate to a dominant regular season? Yes, for one night, anyway.

Anthony played like it was the 2009 playoffs, dribbling with a swagger, shooting with daggers, finishing with a game-high 30 points, 11-of-22 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists.

"It was a statement game for me, letting the team know it's serious business from me," he said.

Wednesday's game was big because it was opening night, but it was also a big game because, well, it was a big game. Consider that many feel Denver, Utah or Portland could win the Northwest Division. Last season, Denver had the same record as Portland (54-28), but the Nuggets won the tiebreaker and thus the division. Well, the Nuggets play those teams only eight times combined this season, and two of those games come before November; Denver plays at Portland tonight.

"Denver is a good team," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We are just trying to stay with them."

The last time Utah and Denver met - April 2 at the Pepsi Center - J.R. Smith was the difference-maker, splashing eight 3-pointers. He was indifferent Wednesday, suspended for the first of seven games because of his reckless driving charge. Nuggets coach George Karl started Anthony Carter alongside Chauncey Billups (25 points), but it was rookie guard Ty Lawson, the darling of the exhibition season, who put on an exhibition of speed and strength.

"Ty Lawson gave us some energy," Anthony said. "He's so quick - we've been trying to tell George all training camp that when we're in the game with him, he's beating everyone."

The gritty Lawson never backed down, bulldozing toward the basket like Barry Sanders toward an NFL secondary. In the fourth quarter, the 5-foot-11 Lawson slammed into Utah's 6-11 Mehmet Okur, making the layup and drawing the foul. The free throw gave Denver an 89-80 lead. In just 26 minutes, the former North Carolina star scored 17 points and had a team-high six assists.

"Right now, I'm just going to ride guys that are going," Karl said of Lawson, who shot 7-for-13. "There is such a speed to the game when Ty is on the court. He missed six shots, but I don't remember those six shots."

As for Carter, who will battle Lawson for playing time this season, he missed some layups and slogged on defense occasionally, finishing with just two points but five assists in 18 minutes.

Utah, one would suggest, has been the forgotten team of the Northwest Division trio, because Denver went to the Western Conference finals last season and Portland is the sexy pick to win the division this season, thanks to the addition of veteran guard Andre Miller and the health of center Greg Oden. But just ask Karl about Utah, and he sounds like he's talking about the 1986 Celtics.

"They're going to be good to great," Karl said of the Jazz. "Will they figure out how to push it to the next level? I think they're motivated to do that. Their young players have matured into dangerous players. Deron Williams is looking at being an MVP-type candidate. Any four of their big guys can be leaders of winning a game."

But for a night, it was Denver's MVP candidate who was the leader of a winning game.

Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or --------------- Nuggets' 3-pointers

1: After notching five points and two rebounds in the first half, Denver's Kenyon Martin had 11 and nine in the second half.

2: Chris Andersen played 23 minutes and had two points and six rebounds, but no blocked shots.

3: Denver scored 54 points in the paint, while Utah had just 38.

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post

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