"The most important thing for us is that we are playing defense," Iverson said. "We feel like we can score with Melo and myself and other players. We can put the ball in the basket, but we also have to stop people."
The Nuggets came up with two big stops in the final minutes while clinging to a 93-90 lead. They forced Vince Carter into a walking turnover with 45 seconds to go and then got a somewhat unexpected stop when Carter missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 12 seconds to go.
It marked the first time this season Denver has won a game (1-21) when scoring less than 99 points.
"Melo and A.I. have defensive talents," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Are they going to be all-defensive team? Probably not. All we want is a focus and what I call no cheap possessions. That's what we're seeing. Most of the time, if you score on us, you've earned it."
The Nets had their chances, particularly Carter, who had 29 points and nine rebounds. He came off Mikki Moore's screen in the closing seconds and had a perfect look on his game-tying attempt.
"Maybe I needed a hand in my face," said Carter, who was 10-for-24 from the field. "I was wide open and actually took my time. I didn't rush. It was like being in the gym by myself. It didn't go down. That's the ones I take to heart."
Allen Iverson added a clinching free throw in the final seconds to cap a 20-point night in helping the Nuggets win for the first time in New Jersey since 2000.
The Nuggets, who built a 13-point lead late in the third quarter, needed Anthony to hold off the Nets in the fourth quarter.
After New Jersey drew within 82-80 on a jumper by Eddie House, Anthony scored six straight points to push the lead to 88-80 on a 3-pointer with 4:56 to go.
A six-point run that Carter capped with a rebound follow got New Jersey within 88-86 with 3:17 to play.
After Iverson hit a layup and Carter followed with a dunk, Anthony, who spent 14 minutes on the bench in the first half with three fouls, made a power move inside and converted a three-point play for a 93-88 edge with 1:38 to go.
"At halftime, I told everyone I owed them a half," said Anthony, who had 20 points in the second half. "I tried to come out and be aggressive even with the fouls. In the third and fourth quarter I went out there not being cautious because of the fouls."
Two free throws by Jefferson got New Jersey within 93-90, but the Nets could not score the rest of the way. Iverson closed the scoring with a free throw after Carter's missed 3-pointer.
Trailing by seven at the half, the Nuggets went on a 23-4 third-quarter spurt, taking a 73-60 lead on a pair of free throws by Anthony.
New Jersey, which turned the ball over five times and went 1-for-11 in the drought, responded with an 18-6 run, getting within 79-78 on a jumper by House.
A three-point play by Eduardo Najera push the Nuggets lead to 82-78, setting up the stretch run.
- The game was the Nets' last against a Western Conference team. They finished 10-20.
- The game was the first of a five-game road trip for the Nuggets.
- Jefferson is now six points shy of tying Otis Birdsong (6,415) for seventh all-time in Nets scoring.
- The crowd of 20,032 was the Nets' third sellout of the season.