Nuggets knock off 76ers for third straight win

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nuggets were flat and getting flattened after a six-day layoff when George Karl urged his team to show some pride and get going.

Chauncey Billups took his coach up on the challenge and took over for the Nuggets.

Billups scored 17 of his 22 points in the third quarter and rallied Denver back from a 16-point deficit to lead the Nuggets to their third straight win, 101-89 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

"With a team like ours, we can make that up," Billups said. "We've got too many shooters."

Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and 14 rebounds, and Nene scored 17 for the Northwest Division leaders. Denver looked sluggish in the first half and its poor shooting seemed indicative of a team coming off a lengthy All-Star break.

Anthony and Billups wouldn't stay cold for long, shooting a combined 8-for-15 from the floor in the third quarter to help the Nuggets overcome a double-digit hole at halftime.

"Billups changed the attitude of this game," Karl said. "He's pretty special. He takes responsibility to win the game."

Billups got the better of Andre Miller in the battle of the veteran point guards. Miller gave him a good push with 17 points through the first 2-plus quarters, but strained his right calf with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the third. He'll have an MRI on Thursday. His injury, combined with Andre Iguodala's foul trouble, derailed the Sixers game in the second half.

"We've just got to regroup and forget this one," said Iguodala, who scored made only one field goal. "We've got to focus defensively and until we understand that's how we're going to win games, it's going to hurt."

The Sixers had no answer for Billups in the third. He scored 13 points during a 24-4 run that erased a 10-point deficit and gave Denver a 61-51 lead.

"When you're getting your butt kicked, pride kicks in," Billups said.

He kicked off the run with a three-point play and when he nailed a 3-pointer that tied the score at 47, the Nuggets wiped out a 16-point first-half deficit. Billups snapped a tie with a 3 that made it 52-49 and put Denver ahead for good.

Kenyon Martin capped the game-changing spurt with a three-point play and scored a layup off an assist from -- who else? -- Billups.

"Players like that make everyone around them better," said Sixers guard Willie Green. "That's what Chauncey does with his team."

The Nuggets shot a woeful 21 percent in the first quarter (Billups and Anthony were 2-for-9), then made 55 percent of their shots in the third to start to pull away.

Each team trudged to the line a combined 71 games and the game dragged to the finish. The Sixers were 29-of-39 and Denver went 23-for-32.

Billups was acquired to fill need of an unselfish guard the Nuggets sorely lacked when they had Allen Iverson. Iverson was acquired in 2006 from the 76ers for Miller -- the only player left for Philadelphia involved in that blockbuster deal.

Miller has been everything the Sixers could have wanted out of their point guard and led them in 2008 to their first playoff appearance in three years. His name had popped up in trade rumors, though, because he is in the final year of his contract and has not stated a public desire to re-sign with Philadelphia. He's also never said he wanted to leave.

Coach Tony DiLeo said before the game he did not expect Miller to be dealt before Thursday's league trade deadline. DiLeo, though, could need a replacement anyway.

Miller pulled up as he chased after the ball and immediately grabbed his calf and ankle. He took a seat on the bench at the next timeout.

Miller will likely be in the lineup Saturday at Miami. He's played in 501 straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA, and has missed only three games in a 10-year career.

"Without him, having that floor general, you start to have those little turnovers," Iguodala said. "You have those possessions where you have bad possessions."

Miller scored 11 points in the second quarter to help Philadelphia take a 47-37 lead into halftime.

Then it completely unraveled. They pulled within five early in the fourth quarter, only to watch Anthony score a couple of buckets that made it 83-70 and put the game away.

Iguodala, Philly's leading scorer, scored 10 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Samuel Dalembert and Marresse Speights both had double-doubles for the Sixers.

Game notes
The Sixers have lost two straight after winning four straight entering the All-Star break. ... The Sixers will play their next four on the road. ... The Nuggets swept the season series for the first time since 2003-04. ... Denver is 29-1 when leading after three quarters.