Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first game since getting arrested on a drunken driving charge, and the Denver Nuggets reached 50 wins for the first time in 20 years with a 120-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
The Nuggets learned in the first half that Dallas had beaten New Orleans, clinching the seventh seed and relegating Denver to a first-round playoff series with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
Even without a chance of moving up from the eighth seed in the rugged Western Conference, the Nuggets were intent on cracking 50 wins for the first time since Doug Moe's 1987-88 team went 54-28.
"It's the benchmark of a great year, and I've just always felt that if you get to 50, you're doing your job at a very high level," coach George Karl said.
The Nuggets' 50-32 record tied for the third-best since the team joined the NBA in 1976.
Denver's starters all watched the fourth quarter from the bench after taking a 99-84 lead with unusually deep rotations. Allen Iverson led Denver with 21 points. Kenyon Martin logged the most minutes among the starters, collecting 11 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Anthony played 21 minutes.
Kyle Lowry led the Grizzlies' starters with 22 points, and Hakim Warrick added 19. Reserve Andre Brown also scored 19.
As the game winded down, one fan tried to start a "Beat L.A.!" chant, but he was met with indifference and finally gave up on his attempt to fire up the disinterested crowd.
The sparse attendance was reminiscent of the Nuggets' lottery years thanks to a spring snowstorm and Golden State's loss on Monday night that gave the Nuggets the final playoff spot in the West.
With so many empty seats, it was difficult to gauge Anthony's support when the lineups were introduced, but there were no apparent jeers directed his way during what resembled an October exhibition game.
Anthony was stopped by police after weaving his silver Mercedes-Benz down Interstate 25 early Monday morning. He was arrested after failing a series of sobriety tests roughly six hours after his worst game of the season: 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting in a win over Houston.
The All-Star forward apologized Tuesday, saying he would "man up to my mistake," and acknowledged the bad timing of it all with the Nuggets preparing for the playoffs.
Denver hasn't advanced out of the first round since 'Melo's arrival as the third pick in the 2003 NBA draft, after he led Syracuse to the national title as a freshman.
Anthony has been active in the community since joining the Nuggets, but he's also has been involved in abundant situations that have sullied his reputation, including a 15-game suspension for fighting last year and an appearance on a bootleg DVD in his hometown of Baltimore in which a man threatened to kill drug snitches.
"I thought we were past this point," Karl said after his enigmatic 23-year-old star left the Nuggets scrambling in damage control mode once again.
Nuggets F Nene, who strained his right groin during his comeback from cancer, was a scratch, but Karl is optimistic Nene will play in the postseason. ... Memphis went 0-4 against the Nuggets this season. ... Denver went 33-8 at home, its best mark since 1988-89.
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