Nuggets 117, Bobcats 101

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Carmelo Anthony blew by a defender in the first half, threw down a reverse jam and landed on his left foot.

The usually ordinary play told Anthony everything he needed to know - his sprained left ankle was just fine.

"I figured if I could do that, I'm good," Anthony said.

A healthy Anthony scored 25 points, Allen Iverson had 24 points and 13 assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Charlotte Bobcats 117-101 on Saturday night.

"It didn't hurt at all," said Anthony, who missed five games after landing on the foot of Kobe Bryant on Jan. 21. "It felt good to be back."

The Nuggets, who won their eighth straight game at home, were all too happy to have him back, especially Iverson.

"When he is not in the lineup, it makes it tougher for me," Iverson said. "He is the main part of our team and he enables us to do so much with the attention that he gets."

Linas Kleiza may be drawing more attention after the fourth-quarter performance he turned in against the Bobcats. Kleiza scored 16 of his 23 points in the period.

"I started being more aggressive and it paid off," Kleiza said. "I don't think I lack confidence right now."

The Bobcats may be lacking in that category after watching a potential win evaporate. They were seemingly in control of the game, leading 87-77 late in the third quarter, when the Nuggets surged ahead. Denver went on a 23-3 run - including 15 straight points at one point - to wrap up its second straight win.

Charlotte has lost four of five, including three straight road games.

"We knew they were going to make a run here at home, but we thought we were going to answer back," said Jason Richardson, who tied a season high with 38 points.

The Bobcats were coming off a 127-96 loss the night before, and fatigue may have played a role.

"Tough game in Golden State last night, late-night travel, high altitude, but we don't want to make excuses," said Sam Vincent, who reached his boiling point late in the game and was ejected after two technical fouls.

"We came in, we played hard, we played well for probably 38 minutes and then we had some defensive lapses. We don't get some calls and things swing out of control for us."

Richardson was unstoppable early, but then went cold in the final quarter. He scored just two points - on two free throws - over the last 12 minutes.

That's due to the stifling defense that Yakhouba Diawara played on him.

"They limited my touches," Richardson said. "Diawara made it tough for me to get to the hole. They just turned up the defense on me."

Emeka Okafor added 20 points and 18 rebounds, and Raymond Felton, playing on a sprained left ankle, scored 14 points.

The Nuggets were without Marcus Camby (left knee bruise) and Eduardo Najera (rib injury), leading to easy dunks and layups by the Bobcats all night long.

Camby has been bothered by the knee the past few games and decided to give it a rest. Najera was injured taking a charge in the fourth quarter against Memphis on Wednesday.

Anthony figured with the two sidelined, he needed to pick up the rebounding slack. He finished with 10 rebounds, giving him his 12th double-double of the season.

"I've got to help out," he said.

Steven Hunter made his first start of the season in place of Camby, and scored eight points in more than 27 minutes.

"I don't think we win this game without Steven," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "He was a big presence in the middle."

Karl was impressed with the Nuggets' ability to kick their defense up a notch in the second half, but he wishes they'd bear down earlier.

After allowing the Bobcats to shoot 61 percent from the field in the first half, the Nuggets held them to 24 percent in the final half.

"There are too many times where I walk into that locker room and we are letting a team shoot over 55 percent on us," Karl said. "Then, we change our face and personality and we look like the San Antonio Spurs on defense. I don

Notes: Bobcats guards Earl Boykins played 12:28 against his former team. Boykins was signed by Charlotte on Thursday to provide backcourt depth. ... Nuggets F Kenyon Martin and G Anthony Carter both finished with 10 points. ... Bobcats F Gerald Wallace didn't play after spraining his right ankle against Golden State. Vincent said he might be out a week.