DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets had a tough time making jump shots. Fortunately for them, they kept going to the line.
Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, J.R. Smith had 21 and the Denver Nuggets shot an NBA season-high 59 free throws to hold off the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 Friday night to win their sixth straight.
The win was the 998th of coach George Karl's career but it probably wasn't his prettiest.
"Ugly, man," Anthony said after the Nuggets set a league high in made free throws with 45. "Ugly game, ugly win."
It looks as if Karl, who is seventh on the career wins list, will rack up plenty more wins on the Nuggets bench. He said before the game he hopes to sign an extension with the Nuggets soon. His deal expires at the end of the season and he is in negotiations with the team for an extension.
"The further you get into the season, the contract situation is going to be discussed," he said. "Hopefully we can keep winning and keep that off the discussion plate. My concern the last six months has been on me and my health and it still is. I knew if I could get healthy and stay healthy I could coach a few more years and that's probably what I want to do. I'd love it to be in Denver and I'm hoping this will work out quickly."
The Clippers threatened to spoil Karl's positive mood.
It was a one-point game late in the third quarter when Ty Lawson took charge. His 63-foot heave at the end of the third quarter gave Denver an 81-77 lead. Later, he had a steal and a layup and then hit another 3-pointer to give Denver an 89-80 lead.
"We needed a spark. The whole third quarter was dead, it looked like we were moving in slow motion," said Lawson, who had three steals. "Luckily that shot went in and that got us moving into the fourth quarter with our defense."
The Nuggets led 103-93 when two driving dunks by Eric Gordon sparked an 8-1 Clippers run. They had a chance to tie it but Cook missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 30 seconds remaining.
"We got a lift from Cook in the fourth quarter," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We weren't sharp offensively even though we scored over 100 points. It's hard when you give up 59 free throws."
Gordon had 24 points and rookie Blake Griffin had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers.
"It was tough," Griffin said. "How many free throws did they shoot? That says it all right now. I won't say any more."
The Clippers were 20-for-29 from the foul line.
"It's tough to get into a defensive or offensive rhythm when we were sending them to the line every time," Baron Davis said. "You can't send a team to the line that many times."
The Nuggets shot just 31 percent in the first half but led 49-48 at the break on the strength of their foul shooting. They made only 10 field goals in the first two quarters -- five of them 3-pointers -- while the Clippers hit 20 shots, but the Nuggets held a 24-8 advantage from the free throw line.
"The whistle was going our way early," Anthony said. "We started off being aggressive, getting to the line and it carried on throughout the half."
Clippers C Chris Kaman returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a sprained left ankle. He had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. ... Andersen left the game in the fourth with a lower back bruise and did not return. He is day to day. ... Karl missed the morning shootaround with a fever and he didn't address the media after the game. Assistant coach Melvin Hunt met with the press postgame.