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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

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Coping just fine: Denver's Al Harrington grabs the ball with Memphis' Darrell Arthur (right) in pursuit during the Nuggets' 120-107 win on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

Nuggets move forward without 'Melo by routing Grizzlies

DENVER (AP) For one night, the Denver Nuggets didn't need Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups or any of their new acquisitions.

What they had left was plenty.

J.R. Smith's 26 points helped short-handed Denver beat the Memphis Grizzlies 120-107 on Tuesday, hours after the Nuggets finalized a blockbuster deal that sent Anthony and Billups to the New York Knicks.

The Nuggets had only nine players on the bench following the three-team trade, and two of them fouled out. Another, Melvin Ely, didn't even play.

"Our guys, when their backs are confronted with a difficult situation, they usually play at a high level," coach George Karl said. "We always react to tough situations in a very positive way."

With the Nuggets comfortably up, a chorus of "Who needs 'Melo?" began to ring through the crowd.

There will be other nights when they miss his mid-range jumper and his 25 points a game, though.

"We lost a superstar and superstars are hard to find in this league," general manager Masai Ujiri said. "Chauncey and 'Melo were the ultimate — they brought smiles and excitement and greatness to this basketball organization.

"Do I feel there's a future here? Absolutely. I feel very confident that things will work out and people will love watching these young kids play basketball here."

The Nuggets have 24 more games to reassemble the pieces in an effort to make the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

The team entered the night in seventh place in the Western Conference, just ahead of Memphis and Utah.

Heat 117, Kings 97

In Miami, LeBron James scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 23 and the Heat opened their post-All-Star schedule with an easy win over Sacramento.

Thunder 111, Clippers 88

In Oklahoma City, Jeff Green scored 22 points, Kevin Durant added 21 and the Thunder spoiled Blake Griffin's return to his hometown.

Bobcats 114, Raptors 101

In Charlotte, D.J. Augustin had 23 points and eight assists, and the Bobcats cruised past listless Toronto despite losing top scorer Stephen Jackson to a strained left hamstring.

Pacers 113, Wizards 96

In Washington, Danny Granger had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Indiana piled on the fast-break points to open the season's homestretch with a rout of the Wizards.

Rockets 108, Pistons 100

In Auburn Hills, Mich., rookie forward Patrick Patterson scored a career-high 20 points, including seven in a row late in the fourth quarter as Houston pulled away from Detroit.

Bucks 94, Timberwolves 88

In Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings scored 27 points and made five free throws down the stretch to lead the Bucks over Minnesota.

Lakers 104, Hawks 80

In Los Angeles, All-Star game MVP Kobe Bryant scored 20 points, Pau Gasol added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lakers easily ended their three-game skid.

Celtics 115, Warriors 93

In Oakland, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each came close to a triple-double, and the Celtics picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break.

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