DENVER -- Injury, illness and irritability deprived the Denver Nuggets of three of their big men Friday night. None of it mattered thanks to J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony, the top-scoring tandem in the NBA.
Smith scored a career-high 37 points and tied a franchise record by making seven 3-pointers in the first half, and Anthony added 32 points in the Nuggets' 123-107 victory over the Miami Heat.
The Nuggets started the game without Joe Smith (ankle) and Reggie Evans (strep throat) and soon lost center Marcus Camby, who was ejected in the first quarter after spraying a cup of lozenges onto the floor.
"The game could have easily went the other way with the technical fouls and losing Camby, but the energy was there," said Andre Miller, whose 20 assists were the most ever allowed by the Heat.
Camby became irritated during a timeout with 2:02 left in the opening quarter after Miller was called for a technical foul for yelling at the officials after they ruled a loose ball near the Nuggets' bench went off Anthony instead of Miami's Dwyane Wade.
As the teams headed toward their benches, Camby slammed his right hand on the scorer's table, spraying George Karl's cup of throat lozenges out onto the floor. He was immediately ejected and slowly walked toward the locker room as the fans booed the officials.
"I didn't think it was a right call," Karl said. "I think maybe he should have gotten a technical, but to get thrown I thought was a little strong, a little steep."
Camby, who watched the rest of the game from the players' lounge, left the Pepsi Center without comment.
"Camby's a big part of our team. He holds us down in the middle, especially on defense," Anthony said.
Camby's departure, however, hurt the Heat much, much more.
"It messed up our focus," Udonis Haslem said. "Our focus was playing them with Camby. Our focus wasn't having J.R. Smith go off like that."
The Heat couldn't capitalize on Camby's departure in large part because Alonzo Mourning wasn't effective playing his second game in 24 hours. Mourning had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Plus, the Nuggets pushed the pace against a tired team coming off an overtime game 24 hours earlier in Sacramento, and it all started with J.R. Smith's hot hand.
"He's an explosive offensive player," Karl said. "He's given us probably a dozen games that were very meaningful. His spacing allows 'Melo better touches."
Anthony (31.7) and J.R. Smith (16.6) are the top-scoring duo in the NBA with a combined average of 48.3 points. On this night, Smith was the main show and Anthony the sidekick for a change.
"Junior stole the show," Anthony said. "Any time a guy gets it going like that, we're going to ride that train."
While Anthony scored many of his points in the second half after the Nuggets had built a double-digit lead, Smith scored 19 in the second quarter, when Denver turned a one-point lead into a 74-56 halftime cushion.
The Nuggets stretched their lead to 23 in the third quarter before the Heat, behind Wade and Haslem, each of whom scored 21, pulled to 102-91 heading into the fourth quarter. Miami, however, allowed three quick baskets and never threatened after that.
Five of Smith's 3s came in the second quarter, one of which he turned into a four-point play.
"It wasn't our night," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "They shot lights out in the first half. I think it was more or less the shots they were making and how many they made consecutively from outside had a tendency to really shock you. It took us out of what we wanted to do."
Smith surpassed his career high of 36 points set on Nov. 21, against Chicago, which traded him to Denver over the summer for a second-round draft pick in what has quickly become the steal of the offseason.
"They have a nice combo in those two guys," Wade said. "Once they get it going, it's tough for you. Smith had it going early and never stopped."
- Nuggets F Nene, who scored four points in 14 minutes, returned to action after missing 14 games with a bruised right knee, the same one he had surgically repaired last year.
- Anthony said he was surprised to hear about Allen Iverson's trade demand: "I can't see him in another jersey."