DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony won over the home crowd just before hitting the road.
Anthony had been subjected to jeers by the home crowd as trade talk intensified last week, but on this night, the Denver fans showed him plenty of love, especially when he was raining 3s from all over the court as he put on a spectacular 23-point show in the third quarter.
Anthony's career-best six 3-pointers all came in the third period as the Nuggets turned a close game into a laugher -- a reversal of their game in November when the Pacers made their first 20 shots of the third quarter and rolled to a 144-113 win in Indianapolis.
"We owed that team and we were looking to pay them back," Chauncey Billups said.
"It was embarrassing," agreed Anthony. "Not just for me, but for the team. So, of course, that motivated me tonight."
And when he found himself open over and over, he kept putting up 3-pointers and they kept popping the net, going 6 of 8 in all.
"Man, I mean, they just kept leaving me open," Anthony said. "The 3-ball was falling. I've been looking for the 3-ball for about a month and a-half now."
Consider it located.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said he put Paul George on Anthony in the third quarter because Danny Granger already had three fouls. And he figured leaving Melo open so far from the basket was a safe bet, never envisioning that it would backfire so spectacularly.
"Not when he's shooting 25 percent from out there," O'Brien said. "So, that's the shot we're going to give him."
Anthony got a chuckle out of that strategy.
"I'm a streaky shooter, man," he said. "I'm a rhythm shooter."
Anthony, whose previous high was five 3-pointers back in 2003, his rookie season, didn't look as tight as he had earlier in the week when the trade talk was so rampant.
"I don't know if it was the trade rumors slowing down [but] he was making a lot of shots," Tyler Hansbrough said. "He had some open looks and made the shots. He is Carmelo Anthony and he's going to make shots."
Nene added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets. Hansbrough had 27 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana.
After a chaotic week in which the New Jersey Nets scuttled talks on a proposed blockbuster trade for Anthony, the weekend was quiet in Denver with no new reports, rumors or revelations in this Melo Drama that began last summer when the All-Star forward refused to sign a $65 million extension through 2014-15.
Nuggets coach George Karl acknowledged over the weekend that the drama has weighed on his weary team, saying that while the games have been good, "the little things and the details of preparation and details of practice, I see a little heaviness to it."
The Pepsi Center fans let Anthony have it while he was getting interviewed by the team's TV network following his 35-point performance against Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, hours after the Nets pulled out of their latest round of trade talks.
That drew a rebuke from Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Before and after Los Angeles' win here Friday night, Bryant called those boo-birds idiots and suggested they were foolish because the fans' hostile reaction might just push Anthony out of town if he were at all waffling about wanting to play somewhere else.
Nary a boo-bird was heard Sunday night in Denver's last home game this month.
The Melo Drama hits the road for a five-game Eastern swing starting Tuesday night in Washington before stops in Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New Jersey.
"This is a big road trip for us," Anthony said. "We need to take the confidence and the momentum that we have here on our home court and really just lock in and focus in on winning basketball games on the road."
The game against the Nets on Jan. 31 will be the first meeting between the teams since Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called off talks on a blockbuster three-team trade that would have sent Anthony and Billups to New Jersey for rookie Derrick Favors and a couple of first-round draft picks.
Showing support for his favorite NFL team, Karl sported a Steelers wind-breaker before the game. His life partner, Kim Van Deraa, is from Wisconsin and is a die-hard Packers fan, and "so there will be two weeks of trash-talking going on." ... Anthony's previous best was five 3-pointers Dec. 26, 2003, against Houston.
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