DENVER - LeBron vs. Carmelo the sequel was better than the original. It still had the same ending.
Carmelo Anthony scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half Tuesday night, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 115-103 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Both players struggled in the first meeting, but showed glimpses of why there are the NBA's top two rookies in the second.
"We gave you all what you wanted to see for the last time we are going to play each other this year," said James, who finished with 19 points.
Anthony was just 1-for-5 in the first half, but was 7-of-11 in the second to help Denver to its sixth straight home win.
He added five rebounds and blocked four shots for the Nuggets (11-6), who have won eight of 10 overall and are off to their best start since 1989-90.
"I was letting the game come to me in the second half," said Anthony, who outscored James 14-7 in their first meeting. "I started out missing a couple of shots, but I stayed in the game and kept my head in it."
James had six rebounds and five assists, but forced several shots in the second half and finished 6-for-19 in Cleveland's seventh straight loss. The Cavaliers have lost 32 straight road games - 0-11 this season - to tie the third-longest streak in league history, held by the 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets.
"I am always going to be a winner," said James, who was wearing a John Elway jersey after the game. "I might not get wins all the time, but I am always going to be a winner and that is not going to change. We'll get some wins. It's a long season."
The game marked the return to action of Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Carlos Boozer, who missed the past six games for the Cavaliers with a sprained ankle. Boozer started and scored 13 points while grabbing a season-low three rebounds. Cleveland didn't win while Boozer was sidelined and the Cavs have now lost seven straight.
Denver won the first meeting of the much-hyped rookies 93-89 on Nov. 5, but the second game didn't have the fanfare or the celebrities of the original. Still, there was plenty of excitement.
Scalpers set up shop in the morning and a crowd of 19,610 were at the game, giving the Nuggets consecutive sellouts for the first time since March 1996.
About a dozen Denver Broncos players were in attendance, including Shannon Sharpe and Clinton Portis, who wore Nuggets' jerseys at center court. Colorado Avalanche star Peter Forsberg also was at the game.
"It was a great feeling," Anthony said.
Anthony didn't give them much to get excited about early, but got it going in the third quarter.
He hit a 3-pointer midway through, followed with a driving layup and hit five of six free throws to end the quarter with 10 points.
Anthony kept it going in the fourth quarter, faking a pass to set up a layup during a 10-0 run that put the Nuggets up 92-81 midway through. He added a rebound slam after James hit a 3-pointer on the other end, and had a layup off a steal to put the Nuggets up 102-93 with five minutes left.
"There is something about Carmelo that it drives you a little sideways as a coach in that he embraces the moment," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "I just need for the moment to happen sooner."
James started off well after being booed during introductions, but struggled in the second and third quarters.
He opened the game with a three-point play on a break after he was fouled by Anthony, then had an assist on Boozer's baseline jumper that helped Cleveland open a 9-0 lead.
James followed with a 3-pointer, then set up Ira Newble's layup with a no-look bounce pass. But that was about it until the fourth quarter.
James played just five minutes in the second quarter and had an airball on a pullup jumper midway through the third quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with Chris Andersen swatting his layup away, but James followed with a 3-pointer and a nifty reverse with just over three minutes left.
"Our young boy struggled a little bit," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. "He's trying to find himself and take it on his own to do a lot. You just can't do it that way, but he has learned a lot, and I am very satisfied with his play."
Mavericks 97, Wizards 72
DALLAS - Antawn Jamison scored 21 points and Michael Finley had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas.
Steve Nash added 14 points and Eduardo Najera had 11 points and 11 rebounds to help Dallas improve to 10-0 at home.
Bucks 106, Hawks 94
ATLANTA - Dan Gadzuric made all six of his shots and scored a career-high 15 points for Milwaukee.
Michael Redd had 25 for the Bucks, including a 3-pointer with 2:42 left that boosted their lead to 97-90.
Raptors 95, 76ers 88
PHILADELPHIA - Donyell Marshall scored a season-high 27 points and Jalen Rose had eight assists in their Toronto debuts to help the Raptors beat Philadelphia.
Vince Carter added 21 points and a career-high 12 assists as the Raptors, averaging only 78 points - reached 90 points for just the fourth time this season.
Hornets 100, Magic 91
ORLANDO, Fla. - Baron Davis Davis 21 points and 11 assists and New Orleans sent Orlando to its 16th straight loss.
The teams play again in New Orleans on Wednesday night, and another Magic loss will match the franchise record for futility. Orlando lost 17 straight in 1991-92.
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