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Anthony back as Nuggets down Blazers

CARMELO Anthony returned from a team suspension to score 38 points and lead Denver to a 106-90 win over the Portland Trailblazers yesterday, boosting the Nuggets slim NBA Northwest Division lead.

The win gave the Nuggets a 1-1/2 game lead in the Northwest, ahead of the Trailblazers and Utah.

Portland missed its chance to go top of the division this late in the season for the first time in eight years.

Anthony, who was suspended for a game after refusing to come to the bench when told by the coach earlier this week, made sure to sprint to the bench as soon as George Karl beckoned this time.

Anthony's point total was his second highest of the season and his 16 baskets tied his season high.

Before tip-off, Karl suggested his star had learned a valuable lesson and everyone on the team had put the episode behind them.

"'Melo's conversations with me now are probably going to be more frequent, because I want him to understand we need him," Karl said. "You saw the Detroit game, we didn't have a closer. We played a damn good basketball game and we didn't have a closer."

This time, they didn't need their closer, taking an 81-70 lead after three quarters and staying ahead by double digits the entire fourth period. Anthony took a seat for good with 1:42 left.

Having beaten one divisional rival, Denver will now head to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz, who have won nine straight games.

Hornets 104, Mavericks 88

In New Orleans, the hosts extended their winning streak to six games with a comfortable victory over Dallas.

Chris Paul had 27 points and 15 assist for the Hornets, who haven't lost since center Tyson Chandler returned to the lineup from a left ankle injury - and rescinded trade - last week.

The Mavericks were competitive for much of the contest but faded in the last 10 minutes.


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