Billups has 27 points in three quarters, Nuggets remain Wolves' nemesis

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the game still close early in the second half, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups made sure Denver didn't need another late comeback.

Billups scored a season-high 27 points in three quarters, Carmelo Anthony added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the Nuggets beat Minnesota 106-97 on Saturday night.

Denver closed with a 21-6 run in the fourth quarter to beat Minnesota 90-84 in Denver on Nov. 16. Anthony had the go-ahead dunk in that game. This time he and Billups keyed a 14-0 run midway through the third quarter to help Denver open a 80-63 lead. Billups said it was the team's best quarter since he arrived in a Nov. 3 trade.

"That was just awesome, and we never looked back," he said.

Coach George Karl agreed.

"We got a lot of steals. The ball just flowed," Karl said. "We got layups. We got open shots. Everybody seemed to be part of the offense and there seemed to be a continuity to it."

Thirteen games into his Denver career, Billups acknowledges he's still learning to adjust to his new teammates and vice versa, but it's obviously working well so far. Denver is 10-3 since he joined the team.

Anthony had a fast-break layup and jumper, Billups had a jumper in the paint, a 3-pointer and set up Kenyon Martin and Dahntay Jones for dunks. Denver finished with a 21-5 edge in fast-break points.

Anthony has 20-plus points in four of his past five, after not doing so for four straight.

"Carmelo is one of the best players in the league. I'm just here trying to help him get better and walk him through the gates. He's our star player," Billups said.

Outscored 27-16 in the third quarter, Minnesota went 6:29 without point before Ryan Gomes hit a jumper with 2:51 to play.

"We took out the easy baskets and weren't giving them as many layups," said Denver's Kenyon Martin. "We got a lot of easy looks off our defense and we was just aggressive all over the place."

It was the second time in eight days that a disastrous third quarter put a game out of reach for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were outscored 35-10 in the third against Boston eight days ago en route to a 95-78 loss.

"We have to put the ball on the floor in those situations," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "They've got Nene and Martin, their bigs running out on our perimeter guys. You don't want to settle and bail them out with jump shots and I thought we did that tonight."

Linas Kleiza added 15 points, and Anthony Carter had 12 for Denver. The Nuggets have beaten Minnesota seven straight times and 12 of 15.

Randy Foye scored a season-high 25 points to lead Minnesota. Al Jefferson had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kevin Love had his first career double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Love averaged 5.8 points in his previous nine games.

After beating Oklahoma City on the road Friday night, the Timberwolves missed a chance to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

"There was a lot of frustration between us on the court," Foye said. "You just can't let that happen. You've gotta go out there and try to get stops on defense and play together."

Billups was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line, including three in the final minute of the third quarter to give the Nuggets an 85-67 lead.

"Whenever you go to the free throw line and get easy points with no defense, it's in your benefit," Gomes said. "That's what he did tonight and he made plays when they needed him, especially in that third quarter."

Denver, the NBA leader in free-throw attempts per game (32.67), was 26-for-33 from the line, including 18-for-22 in the first half. Minnesota was 9-for-10.

Game notes
Denver's last loss in Minnesota was Feb. 14, 2007. ... Denver is 7-1 when scoring at least 100 points. ... Billups entered the game averaging 17.3 points per game against Minnesota, for whom he played from 2000-02. It's his second-highest scoring average against an opponent, behind Boston (18.2). ... Minnesota's Mike Miller was 2-for-10 from the field, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers. ... Wolves G Kevin Ollie missed his sixth straight game because of a strained calf.