- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DENVER (AP) — J.R. Smith scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Denver Nuggets pull away for a 97-87 victory Tuesday night over the Washington Wizards.

Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Nene added 16 points for Denver, which sent Washington to its ninth consecutive loss.

The game marked the return of Nuggets coach George Karl, who was back on the bench after missing four games over the past week for cancer treatments.

Andray Blatche led the Wizards with 23 points and Al Thornton had 16.

Karl is battling neck and throat cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments regularly for a six-week period. Last Monday, he had a surgical procedure to insert a feeding tube into his stomach.

Initially, Karl planned to rejoin the team Friday for its game in New Orleans, but needed additional time to adjust to the insertion of the tube. He did not hold his normal pregame news conference Tuesday because of lingering pain in his throat and a desire to preserve his voice for the game.

In gaining a split of the two-game season series with the Wizards, the Nuggets won a sixth straight home game. They have also won seven of their last eight games.

Denver was without Chris Andersen, who sprained his left ankle the night before in a loss at Houston. The Nuggets were already without Kenyon Martin, who missed his seventh consecutive game while undergoing therapy for left knee tendinitis.

Alonzo Gee hit a 3-pointer from just inside the halfcourt line to pull the Wizards to 65-63 at the end of the third quarter and the game remained closely contested into the fourth.

Thornton had consecutive baskets to pull the Wizards to 79-74 with 6:01 remaining, but Smith scored nine points in a row for the Nuggets to help Denver take its biggest lead to that point, 88-78 with 3:15 left. Smith drained a 3-pointer and swished a jumper from the top of the key after nearly losing the ball on his dribble just before the shot clock as part of Denver’s 9-2 surge.

Anthony also converted a three-point play in the late going, helping to fend off the Wizards.

Trailing from the outset, the Nuggets didn’t get their first lead until Arron Afflalo’s 3-pointer with 7:18 left in the third period put them in front 55-52.

Blatche scored 16 points in the first half, sparking the Wizards to a 45-39 lead.

Anthony drove in for a dunk to tie it at 38-all with 2:25 remaining in the second, but the Wizards closed the period with a 7-1 burst capped by Blatche’s 16-foot turnaround jumper just before the halftime buzzer.<

NOTES: The Wizards’ Josh Howard underwent surgery earlier Tuesday to repair the torn left ACL he suffered Feb. 22 against Chicago. He’s expected to fully recover in 6-to-8 months. … Blatche has scored at least 20 points in six of the Wizards’ nine games in March. … Chauncey Billups went 0-for-6 from 3-point range, ending a career-best streak of 36 games in which he had made at least one 3-pointer.



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