No Melo, no problem as Nuggets get 7th win in 8 games

DENVER -- Nothing, not injuries and trades, can slow down the Denver Nuggets.

Chauncey Billups, Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith scored 21 points apiece to help the Nuggets win their fifth straight game, 108-97 over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

Kenyon Martin and Nene scored 14 points each for Denver in the Nuggets' seventh victory in eight games. Denver played without scoring leader Carmelo Anthony, out at least three weeks after fracturing a finger on his right hand Monday.

In his absence, the rest of the team picked up the slack.

"That shows the character of this team, that we've got a lot of first-class guys," guard Anthony Carter said. "If they're playing or not playing, they're ready when their number's called."

Dwyane Wade had 31 points, and Shawn Marion added 25 for the Heat, 1-3 in their last four games.

"We made Wade work for most of his shots," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We kept him off the free-throw line and a lot of his shots came off the jump shot."

Wade and Marion combined for 31 of Miami's 49 points in the second half.

"I wouldn't say we contained Wade, because he had 31, but we kept their role players to a minimum," Smith said. "Stars will do what they do, but keep everybody else to a minimum."

Anthony's absence put a damper on longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale's presence at the game. Vitale, who covered Anthony's first game at Syracuse in 2002, called the game as part of a swap worked out by the network.

ESPN's normal NBA broadcast team of Mike Tirico, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson covered the Duke-Davidson game, while Vitale and play-by-play man Dan Shulman worked the Nuggets-Heat game.

Earlier Wednesday, the Nuggets traded guard Chucky Atkins and a conditional first-round pick to Oklahoma City for center Johan Petro and a second-round pick.

The loss of Anthony and the trade didn't seem to bother the Nuggets. After Miami cut an 11-point halftime lead to three midway through the third quarter, Billups and Kleiza hit 3-pointers to spark a 10-2 run that gave Denver a 74-63 lead.

"You could see they didn't need him," Wade said about Anthony. "The guys off the bench stepped up. They have plenty of players that can score."

The Heat climbed within six twice, but Smith hit two jumpers, the last with 1.1 seconds left in the third, to push the lead back to 11.

"You look at who played great tonight, and it's no coincidence," Billups said about Kleiza and Smith. "Those guys were awesome. They stepped up and were very aggressive."

After Martin's two free throws gave Denver an 85-72 lead early in the fourth, Miami scored 10 straight points, capped by Yahkouba Diawara's 3-pointer.

Denver never gave up the lead, though. Ahead 99-93 with 2:15 left, a Billups' steal led to a dunk by Smith and Miami never got closer than eight in the final minutes.

"We had our chances," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We got it to three so many times in the game."

Kleiza, starting in place of Anthony, had seven points in second period and Billups, who got into early foul trouble, had nine in the quarter to give Denver a 59-48 lead at the half.

"I thought the tempo of the game was fast, and the advantage for us was LK in the open court," Karl said.

Kleiza started the game fast, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring eight points in the first quarter.

"I was playing to what the game presented to me," Kleiza said. "I wasn't trying to force it or anything."

Game notes
The Heat traded G Shaun Livingston to Memphis for a conditional second-round draft pick in 2012. The Grizzlies then waived Livingston. ... Spoelstra said G Daequan Cook (bruised left knee) didn't play as a precaution. ... The Nuggets' 25-12 record is their best start since the 1976-77 season, their first in the NBA. ... The Nuggets are 12-1 when holding teams under 100 points.