Melo returns from injury to help Nuggets to biggest win of season

DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony got an unexpected breather in his return from an ankle injury.

Anthony, who missed the previous eight games with a sprained left ankle, scored 19 points before joining other Denver starters on the bench for the fourth quarter as the Nuggets had their most lopsided win of the season, 127-91 against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

"The good thing is my first game back, I didn't have to do too much," Anthony said. "But the bad thing is, I already had been sitting out for two weeks. I wanted to play [more], but I'll take a 36-point win any day."

The victory margin against a Dallas team that Denver eliminated in last season's semifinal round of the playoffs surpassed the Nuggets' previous high of 28 points, which they achieved twice in wins against Toronto and New Jersey in November.

Though Denver beat Dallas for the sixth time in seven meetings, the Mavericks defeated the Nuggets in their previous encounter in December at the Pepsi Center, dealing one of the Nuggets' four losses in 27 home games this season.

"We didn't expect to beat a good team like that by that amount of points, but we came out and played well from the beginning," Anthony said. "Everybody got involved. Everybody was on the same page. We knew in the back of our mind how important this game was."

And even though he was rested in the fourth quarter, Anthony said he played long enough to know that he has no lingering problems from the ankle sprain that he suffered Jan. 23 against New Orleans.

"I approached this game wanting to see what I could and couldn't do, and I found out I could do pretty much what I've been doing," said Anthony, the NBA's second-leading scorer.

Nene led Denver with 21 points, Chauncey Billups added 16 and Chris Andersen had 14 points to go with 10 rebounds. Rarely used reserves Malik Allen (six points) and Johan Petro (13 points) combined for 19 points while playing in place of Kenyon Martin, who sat out because of tendinitis in his left knee.

"We knew we were going to be a little short-handed with K-Mart being out," Billups said. "But we have so many different lineups we can play, so many different guys who can play well together."

Dallas was led by Dirk Nowitzki with 17 points but also had to deal with its own injuries and a difficult back-to-back, arriving in Denver earlier Tuesday morning after beating the Golden State Warriors in Oakland the night before.

"I'm disappointed, but it was a tough turnaround, difficult situation," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

Jason Terry had 16 points and Josh Howard 14 for Dallas, which was without Shawn Marion because of lower back tightness. The Mavericks already were without Erick Dampier, who has missed three of the last four games because of a left knee injury.

"Dampier's a very important part of our team," Carlisle said. "Not having him tonight, it makes it a lot tougher with guys like Nene and the Birdman [Andersen]. Shawn's situation tonight contributed. We need to get ourselves healthy coming out of the [All-Star] break. I like this team. We've had struggles, but we're going to keep pushing."

Up by 65-39 at the half, the Nuggets pulled ahead 78-46, connecting on three 3s in a row, two by Arron Afflalo and the third by Anthony.

The Mavericks tried to get back in the game with a 14-5 run but Denver answered with a 7-0 burst touched off by a pair of baskets by Anthony, pulling in front 90-60 with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter and taking a 103-70 lead into the final period.

At halftime, the Nuggets led 65-39.

Dallas managed to pull to 49-35 on a three-point play by Nowitzki with 4:13 left in the second quarter but the Nuggets scored 16 of the next 20 points leading up to the break. Nene had five points in the flurry, including a three-point play in which he muscled in a layup underhanded as Kidd grabbed his arm. Billups' culminated the spree by hitting consecutive 3-pointers in the final seconds of the period.

Game notes
Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway watched the game from a courtside seat. ... The Nuggets are 21-2 when holding opponents below 100 points. ... Dallas has made a 3-pointer in 908 consecutive games. ... Dallas never held a lead at any point in the game. ... The Mavericks were outshot from the floor .608 percent to .382 percent