Carmelo Anthony (38 points, 12 rebounds) leads Denver to win

MILWAUKEE -- Al Harrington reached out to grasp Carmelo Anthony's hand.

"Don't forget about me," Harrington told Anthony on the way to the door.

"Good luck, homie," Anthony answered. "Holler at me."

These days with the Nuggets, everyone's saying goodbye because no one knows if they'll be playing with Melo again next week.

Anthony scored 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets over the Milwaukee Bucks 94-87 on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.

He shook off a sore right shoulder after being hit in Monday night's loss to Houston to go 16 of 30 from the field and leave a lasting impression before heading to Los Angeles. What's going to happen next with Anthony remains unclear.

"I have no clue, to be honest with you, I don't know. I'm waiting to see just like you guys are," he said. "I feel good out there on the court -- mentally, physically, emotionally right now. I feel good. Once I come into this locker room or in any arena that's when everything just moves to the side."

Chauncey Billups scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets got a much needed win after coming in with four losses in five games.

John Salmons scored a season-high 33 points and Andrew Bogut grabbed 20 rebounds, but the Bucks lost for the eighth time in 10 games as they continue to be the worst-shooting and lowest-scoring team in the NBA.

"'Melo put on a great performance tonight, but we were still able to be close at the end," Salmons said. "We just have to be able to make a couple of plays to get over the hump. It is frustrating, but we just have to keep playing through it."

Trailing by five midway through the fourth, Harrington made a layup and Anthony slashed into the lane before hitting a fading jumper to cut the lead to 82-81 with 5:48 left.

After Salmons hit a reverse layup to give Milwaukee an 86-83 lead, Anthony made two free throws, Billups hit a 3-pointer and Kenyon Martin scored on a putback of Anthony's miss to put the Nuggets up 90-86 with 1:26 left.

Bogut, who came in hitting 40.6 percent of his free throws, made the first of two with 1:18 to play, but Milwaukee missed its final six shots down the stretch, including two 3-pointers that would've tied it.

Billups hit four straight free throws for the final margin.

"This team has always had that perseverance, toughness to it," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "When you have to win a game, they usually show up. We've lost some games in serious ways, and tonight, we won using tough defense."

Anthony, who has been part of a season-long trade saga that could see him leave Denver at next Thursday's trading deadline, is already prepared for the attention he'll receive in Los Angeles at the All-Star break.

He dubbed it 'MeloWatch' on Wednesday and it's something he doesn't seem eager to participate in because he doesn't have the answers to what his future holds and is noncommittal when asked if he'd sign an extension with the Nuggets.

The most recent rumors put Anthony in New York with either the Knicks or Nets, but he said he's grown tired of trying to keep up with the latest news and he's ready for something to finally happen.

Denver had stayed strong despite the distraction until this most recent stretch.

The Nuggets had blown double-digit leads in their last three losses and twice allowed leads of 10 or more evaporate in this one. Still, they held on to remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with 25 games to go.

"It'll make waking up tomorrow really nice, relaxed to enjoy the All-Star break," Karl said. "Mentally, I think we've been extra fatigued by a lot of the crap we've put up with."

Salmons had his best game in nearly two years, but the Bucks went 3 of 23 from 3-point range and could certainly use another shooter.

Michael Redd, who averaged 20.2 points over his 10-year career and is making $18.3 million in the final year of his contract, is expected to return to Milwaukee on Monday to continue what's been a 13-month rehabilitation after his second reconstructive knee surgery in as many years. There's no timetable for his return.

"We're just going to take this break and come in with a different attitude," Corey Maggette said.

Denver has one more game on Tuesday before next Thursday's trading deadline and Anthony showed the best parts of his game right from the start. He had 21 points in the first half, including an emphatic, one-handed dunk early in what well could be his last game with the Nuggets.


"I need this break," Anthony said. "I think the whole team needs a break."

Game notes
Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova (right eye) did not play. ... The game marked the one-year anniversary of Karl revealing he had neck and throat cancer. Karl said Wednesday during shootaround he remains cancer free since treatment and hopes to continue educating people on cancer issues. He previously beat prostate cancer.


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