DENVER — Carmelo Anthony didn’t pout.
He didn’t scream, he didn’t throw any towels or give a dismissive wave to Nuggets head coach George Karl.
He simply wondered why during Denver’s 106-101 loss to Phoenix on Sunday he sat the last 17 minutes, 45 seconds.
“Am I hurt?” Anthony asked in a nearly empty locker room. “I’m hurt that I didn’t play.
“It’s tough to sit down for an hour, I’ll tell you that.”
The Nuggets’ leading scorer suffered through another tough shooting night – he was 6-for-27 over the weekend — but he didn’t think that warranted sitting for the entire fourth quarter Sunday.
“That’s going to happen,” said Anthony, who scored just nine points in 24 minutes. “I’m not going to worry about what I shoot from the field. We’ve been winning. We won eight in a row. I don’t see why people should be pinpointing what I’m shooting from the field. I don’t think that’s the major issue right now.
“I’ll be off a lot of nights. I don’t really know what he wants from me.”
Phoenix ended Denver’s eight-game winning streak, and got the seven-game home stand started on an off note. For Anthony, it was rougher than most because he didn’t know why Karl didn’t put him in after playing the first 6:15 of the third quarter.
“You just put it behind you,” he said. “I never disrespect George. I try to do everything he asks me to do. Things happen.”
Karl said he was simply trying to find the right combination in a game that nearly got away from him in the third quarter. Earl Boykins came in for Anthony after Joe Johnson’s layup gave Phoenix a 72-60 lead, and the Nuggets quickly cut into the deficit. They got to within five at the end of the third, and two quick 3-pointers by Wesley Person at the start of the fourth helped Denver (32-30) tie the game at 85 with 9:40 left.
Meanwhile, Anthony watched it from the bench.
“I’m not going to go into that,” Karl said when asked about Anthony not playing. “I just felt that the guys that were on the court deserved to play. I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. I’m just saying the way I coached the game, I was at the four or five minute mark of the third quarter and didn’t have any idea how I was going to finish or who was going to finish the game.”
Karl said the one guy he knew would be on the floor was Boykins. The 5-foot-5 guard stayed in the game after subbing for Anthony, and with him on the floor the Nuggets rallied. He scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half on 4 of 12 shooting, and he hit two free throws with 5:47 left to give Denver a 92-90 lead. The Suns scored the next six points, and then Boykins hit his only 3-pointer of the game cut the Suns’ lead to one with 3:14 left.
That was the closest Denver got. Phoenix clinched the game when Quentin Richardson’s 3-pointer with 1:11 left made it 102-97.
“We’re talented, we’re super competitive and we can dig games out like that,” said Phoenix point guard Steve Nash, who had game-highs in points (25) and assists (11).
Kenyon Martin led the Nuggets with 21 points and nine rebounds, but he couldn’t make up for the loss of Marcus Camby, who was nursing a strained right hamstring. Camby leads the team in rebounding at 9.9 a game, and his absence was a big reason why Phoenix had a 58-41 advantage on the boards.
“I know we’re missing Marcus,” Bryon Russell said. “Fifteen or 20 (rebounds) is probably what he would have given us tonight. There are times he’s not going to be there for us and we all need to step up.”
Anthony wanted to help out with that, but it was hard to do from the bench. Although he missed eight of his 10 shots Sunday, it didn’t hurt his confidence, nor did sitting for half the game hurt it.
“I’ll always have my confidence,” he said. “Nobody can take my confidence away from me.”