DENVER -- Once again at the Pepsi Center, the defense was dismal, the shots were wild and crazy and the crowd had seen enough to stream for the exits midway through the fourth quarter.
For once, Denver coach George Karl could laugh it all off.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith scored 28 points apiece and the Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 123-111 Monday night in the duo's best combined performance since their suspensions for fighting back in December.
The Warriors were without their leading scorer, guard Baron Davis, who is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. And guard Stephen Jackson didn't arrive until halftime after testifying in a trial in Indianapolis of a man who hit him with a car during a fight outside a strip club last fall. The man was convicted Monday in a ruling by a judge.
"I wanted play so badly that my body was already basically loose. I just didn't get here in enough time to be a factor," said Jackson, who scored nine points.
The Nuggets tightened their defense enough to surge to a big lead early in the fourth quarter, and that's when things got out of hand in Karl's eyes.
"Tonight, when we got the 24-point lead, we had five possessions of shot selections that were awful, it was a joke. A high school coach would have taken everybody out of the game," Karl said. "But we have a tendency when the scoreboard says it's OK to go goofy, we go goofy."
Karl was particularly puzzled by Smith's errant 27-foot jumper with 9½ minutes left and the Nuggets ahead by 19.
"Everybody knew he was going to do it. We had a bet on the bench and everybody knew he would do it," Karl said. "So, he's very predictable. And I have no idea how to change it other than taking him out of the game and sitting him down."
That, he didn't do. He already had Anthony on the bench with a bruised right thigh.
Smith left the arena without addressing his head-scratching shot, but Anthony eagerly stuck up for him.
"As long as he doesn't take too many crazy shots, we can cover for him," Anthony said.
Eduardo Najera also threw up an uncharacteristic bad shot that had Karl befuddled.
"When you're playing great, don't change how you're playing. Keep playing. But no, the scoreboard says, maybe I can take one now. I mean, Eddie Najera. I love Eddie. What the hell was that?" Karl said. "I mean, OK, yeah, three days before the All-Star break, we're up 25. But we need to build on the good stuff, not the bad stuff."
The Nuggets will head into the All-Star break with a 14-14 home record. Eight of those losses have come against sub.-500 teams, but the Warriors were too short-handed to join the club.
Jackson arrived at halftime after his flight was diverted to Colorado Springs because of fog.
"I got here safe. That was all that mattered," said Jackson, who started the second half and quickly picked up a technical for arguing a call with official Jess Kersey.
He testified against Deon Willford, who was found guilty of felony battery and failure to stop at a scene of an accident, a misdemeanor, and will be sentenced Feb. 28.
Jackson was booked into jail Oct. 12 and has been free since on $10,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct in the fight outside Club Rio on Oct. 6. His trial is April 12. The criminal recklessness charge carries a prison term of six months to three years.
Willford's car hit Jackson after the fight started. The defendant testified Monday that the 6-foot-8 player was walking toward his car and pointing a gun at him. Other witnesses said Jackson was walking away from Willford's car and had no weapon out at the time.
"I'm just glad that a part of it's out of the way. I'm ready to move on," Jackson said of his testimony. "It went well. It's something I couldn't get around."
Nene had 24 points for Denver and Marcus Camby tied a career high with seven assists to go with eight points and seven rebounds in his return from a four-game absence with a pulled groin and the flu. He looked like he hadn't missed a minute, playing loose and free and several times dishing the ball behind his back for big baskets before taking a seat when the game got out of hand.
Anthony, named the Western Conference player of the week for the third time earlier in the day, scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Nuggets began to break away, and Smith's buzzer-beating 3 gave Denver a 105-87 lead going into the fourth quarter.
- Nuggets G Allen Iverson has missed seven of Denver's last eight games because of a sprained ankle that could keep him from going to his eighth All-Star game.
- The Warriors are 5-8 since making an eight-player trade with the Pacers on Jan. 17.
- Nelson said he won't have a timetable for Davis' return until doctors see how surgery goes.