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'Melo, Billups lead Nuggets past Jazz

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DENVER (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points and Chauncey Billups added 29 in the Denver Nuggets' 119-112 win over Utah that snapped a four-game winning streak by the Jazz on Sunday night.

Ty Lawson returned to Denver's rotation after missing four games with a sprained ankle and helped steady a sometimes erratic offense, scoring 11 points and dishing out an assist.

Nene added 18 points for the Nuggets, whose win on this January night could mean a lot come April.

Denver improved to 3-0 against Utah, winning the season series, which could prove crucial for playoff seeding should these teams end up with the same record in the tight Western Conference.

Point guard Deron Williams (sprained wrist) and forward Andrei Kirilenko (hyperextended knee) were both in Utah's starting lineup despite playing the night before in a 112-95 win over Milwaukee in Salt Lake City. Williams led the Jazz with 23 points but Kirilenko scored just seven.

Kyle Korver had 19, Carlos Boozer 18 and Paul Millsap 17 for the Jazz.

Although Utah's lone lead came at 7-6, this game was contested until the final minute.

The Nuggets jumped out to a 17-point lead in the second quarter but Utah kept it interesting by closing with a 12-2 run and went into halftime down 60-53. Kirilenko opened the third quarter with a bucket to make it a five-point game, but the Nuggets responded with a 10-0 run, sparked by Anthony, to grab a 70-55 lead.

Once again, the Jazz didn't go down quietly. They used a 13-2 run to pull to 85-81 heading into the fourth quarter, and Mehmet Okur's bucket cut Denver's lead to 85-83.

Boozer's drive made it 108-104 with just under two minutes left, but the Jazz got no closer.

Billups iced it with a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left that made it 113-108.

Lawson had missed four games since spraining his left ankle against Golden State on Jan. 5, and in his absence, the Nuggets lost some of the fluidity in their offense, often having trouble with pace and penetration that's so crucial to their philosophies.

Coach George Karl also missed Lawson's disruptive defense and said he looks forward to putting him on the court with Billups more often during the last half of the season, just like they were for the frenetic final minutes Sunday night.

"Ty's defense is better than any rookie I've ever coached," Karl said before tip-off. "He still makes mistakes, but he's a very sound defender as is Chauncey, and their ability to find the open man, I've said, what, 2,451 times, is the key to our team."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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