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Before tip-off, Karl suggested his star had learned a valuable lesson and everyone on the team had put the episode behind them.
"'Melo's conversations with me now are probably going to be more frequent, because I want him to understand we need him," Karl said. "You saw the Detroit game, we didn't have a closer. We played a damn good basketball game and we didn't have a closer."
This time, they didn't need their closer, taking an 81-70 lead after three quarters and staying ahead by double digits the entire fourth period. Anthony took a seat for good with 1:42 left and Denver up 103-87.
J.R. Smith's 36-foot shot from beyond halfcourt gave Denver a 53-44 halftime lead.
Billups was a tad late on a similar shot at the end of the first quarter, when he stole the inbounds pass with a second left and sank the long basket.
It doesn't get any easier for the Nuggets, who headed to Salt Lake City to face the third-place Utah Jazz, who have won nine straight games and sliced a six-game deficit two weeks ago to 1 1/2 games.
Notes: This was the first game Carter's missed all year, leaving F Linas Kleiza as the only Nuggets player who has played in every game this season. ... Karl said Martin's back tightens and spasms after games, and "rest might be the only cure."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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