DENVER -- The last two points were the hardest for Carmelo Anthony.
With the game in the balance, the crowd chanting "MVP! MVP!" and Anthony's sights set on an offensive milestone, the Nuggets forward sank a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining to finish off a career-high, 50-point performance and help Denver beat the New York Knicks 128-125 Friday night.
"They might have been the two toughest free throws I've shot in a while," Anthony said. "We've got the game on the line, 50, you're right there and you want to get it. If I didn't say I wanted to get it, I'd be lying to you. I'm right there. But most importantly they were two big free throws."
He wasn't kidding. Every point the Nuggets scored -- Denver also got 32 from Chauncey Billups and 17 from J.R. Smith -- was crucial to holding off a Knicks team that got 41 points from Al Harrington, one shy of his career high.
"Usually, you would hope when you have a night like this, that you'd definitely win one," Harrington said. "We're just upset we couldn't come out on top."
The problem was Anthony's night was just a little better.
"He's got the total package right now," Harrington said. "He's hitting 3s, he's hitting mid-range, he can get to the free throw line whenever he wants. When you play against a guy that's going like that, there's nothing you can really do. I think our guys did a pretty good job, because if they didn't he would have had 70."
Billups said Anthony had the hot hand, and the Nuggets went with it.
"'Melo is one of the best players in the world," Billups said. "If you've got him going like that, then you've got to ride him."
Anthony is the only player in the NBA who has scored at least 20 points in each of his games this season.
"I thought we really competed tonight, and Carmelo really got into a zone, and J.R. Smith and Chauncey and those guys got away from us," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "Give them credit, but I liked our effort."
David Lee added 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who lost their fourth straight.
Anthony scored 13 points in the third quarter, helping the Nuggets take a 92-87 lead into the final period. The Knicks remained within striking distance, tying it at 100 with 7:56 left when Chris Andersen was called for goaltending on Nate Robinson's short jump hook.
Neither team was able to seize a decisive edge, though.
Smith and Wilson Chandler traded 3-pointers in one sequence that left the Nuggets up 110-107. The Knicks scored the next four points, moving in front 111-110 on Lee's dunk off a feed from Larry Hughes with 3:35 remaining.
That would be the Knicks' final lead.
Anthony hit a pair of free throws and Smith made his third 3-pointer of the period to give the Nuggets a 115-111 lead.
A three-point play by Harrington brought the Knicks within 123-120 with 38 seconds left, but Billups answered with a reverse layup.
Chandler hit a 3-pointer before Anthony converted a pair of free throws to help the Nuggets withstand the Knicks charge. Harrington added a basket late but Smith made one of two free throws and the Hughes couldn't get a shot off in the final seconds after taking a pass from Robinson.
"Nate usually shoots that, so I think it kind of caught Larry off guard and he couldn't get his feet underneath him quick enough to get the shot off," Harrington said.
|Carmelo Anthony adds to his NBA scoring lead, dropping a career-high 50. (Getty Images)|
|New York (3-13)||30||30||27||38||125|
|Denver (12-4) «||26||35||31||36||128|
|NY:A. Harrington 41 Pts
NY:D. Lee 10 Reb
NY:L. Hughes 9 Ast
|DEN:C. Anthony 50 Pts
DEN:Nene 11 Reb
DEN:C. Billups 8 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|W. Chandler, SF||41||5-12||0-0||2||4||5||12|
|C. Duhon, PG||37||4-10||1-1||2||6||2||12|
|L. Hughes, SG||34||6-13||1-2||6||9||2||16|
|D. Lee, PF||32||8-11||7-8||10||4||5||23|
|D. Gallinari, SF||18||2-10||0-0||4||1||1||4|
|A. Harrington, PF||38||14-24||9-13||10||1||4||41|
|J. Jeffries, PF||21||2-3||2-5||5||2||3||6|
|N. Robinson, PG||19||4-9||2-2||1||2||3||11|
|D. Milicic, PF||Did Not Play|
|T. Douglas, PG||Did Not Play|
|J. Hill, PF||Did Not Play|
|E. Curry, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Landry, PF||Did Not Play|
|C. Mobley, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|C. Anthony, SF||46||17-28||15-16||6||5||5||50|
|K. Martin, PF||38||4-11||0-0||11||1||6||8|
|C. Billups, PG||37||9-17||10-14||4||8||2||32|
|A. Afflalo, SG||20||2-4||0-0||0||2||4||5|
|J. Smith, SG||25||6-11||1-2||3||2||2||17|
|C. Andersen, PF||22||2-3||1-1||5||1||4||5|
|T. Lawson, PG||16||1-3||0-0||3||6||0||2|
|J. Graham, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Petro, C||Did Not Play|
|R. Balkman, PF||Did Not Play|
|A. Carter, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Allen, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|