Nuggets starters in double figures to beat Bucks

DENVER -- The high-flying, high-scoring Denver Nuggets didn't leave town with Allen Iverson, after all.

Although the new model features a stingy defense and an effective halfcourt offense engineered by Chauncey Billups, there's still some pop left in the lineup to light up the scoreboards.

Linas Kleiza scored 25 points, Carmelo Anthony had 17 in limited duty and the Nuggets whipped Milwaukee 114-105 Tuesday night with their starters sitting out the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets got double-digit scoring from all their starters, plus Kleiza and Renaldo Balkman, and they beat their season high in total points, 113 in overtime against the Clippers on Oct. 31.

This was Denver's sixth win in seven games since acquiring Billups, the classic point guard that Detroit gave up to get A.I. back East.

"We're not all the way out of the woods," Billups said. "But we've made a lot of strides in such a short time and the thing that's really been impressive is that we haven't had a lot of practice time. A lot of times, we're practicing during games. And that in itself has been the most impressive thing for me."

Aside from a big win at Boston last week, those victories with Billups running the show have come against sub-.500 teams still searching for an identity in the young season, and truer tests are coming, starting Wednesday night at San Antonio and then Friday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

"It was a solid win, and we have a great opportunity on the road against two of the best teams in the NBA," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "And we fought hard to get here and I think you'll see us continue to fight hard. And it seemed like there was a little better flow offensively.

"It's good stuff. It wasn't beautiful but it's good stuff."

Although they won three of them, the Nuggets, hadn't topped 100 points in four straight games, a stark contrast to the two years Iverson wore a Nuggets uniform and Denver ran up and down the court trying to just outscore their opponents.

The Bucks, who got 25 points from Charlie Bell, played their eighth straight game without star Michael Redd (ankle) and their third straight without starting power forward Charlie Villanueva (hamstring). Richard Jefferson got into early foul trouble, and the Nuggets took advantage, building a 64-50 halftime lead.

They piled up an 18-2 advantage in fast breaks in the first half, including a rim-rattler by Balkman on a steal-and-slam that had the Pepsi Center rocking just like it used to during Iverson's short stint in the Rockies.

Balkman left the game in the fourth quarter after aggravating a right ankle sprain. He's day-to-day but questionable for San Antonio.

Denver got 48 points and a dozen assists from its bench, which had its best workout yet.

"Having Chauncey and everybody, we're trying to figure each other out," Kleiza said. "I think we're doing a great job; everybody's getting involved."

The Nuggets were 40-for-48 from the free throw line, Milwaukee 19 of 24.

"We're in a good place," Karl said. "We're playing good basketball."

The Bucks aren't in a good place and they aren't playing good basketball.

"We were just incredibly soft and noncompetitive pretty much from beginning to end," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "From the moment the ball went up we didn't have anything from a lot of guys. We've got to have a lot from a lot of guys to win a game. We went to the bench, tried to find some combinations, but that didn't work, either."

Despite the disparity in fouls, Skiles wasn't about to pin this one on anybody but the Bucks themselves.

"On a really rare night you can be aggressive defensively and still commit a lot of fouls and the other team gets to the line, but it's usually because you're a step slow," Skiles said. "You're slapping instead of moving your feet, you're soft on somebody and they take it right into your body and draw fouls.

"I certainly didn't have a problem with the way the game was called. We were fouling all over the place. We deserved exactly what they got."

Game notes
Denver G Chucky Atkins made his debut after missing the first 10 games with a right knee injury. He missed 50 games last season. ... In the first quarter, Denver had 12 field goal attempts and 19 free throws.