Carmelo Puts Team, 2-Seed on Shoulders
That thinking would have been wrong. Anthony never has been more dialed in on the task at hand.
"We really need to get that No. 2 spot in the West,'' Anthony emphasized after the workout. "There won't be any coasting down the stretch here. I don't know how much more I can put on my shoulders, but I'm going to try.''
While the Cavs, Lakers and Magic -- teams with the three best records in the NBA – are almost locked into their playoff positions and will begin resting and fine-tuning through the next three weeks, the Nuggets (48-25) still are in a dogfight, desperate to hold off both Dallas (48-25) and Utah (48-26).
Securing that coveted No. 2 spot in the West would allow them to avoid Kobe Bryant and the Lakers until the conference final and assure them of home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"Winning is the only thing that matters in these next nine games,'' Anthony said. "That's how important it is. Home court is really crucial in the playoffs.''
They play at Dallas Monday night in a game that will determine who holds the tiebreaker between the two. The Nuggets still are without Coach George Karl, who is at home recovering from treatment for throat and neck cancer, and power forward Kenyon Martin, who is resting his troublesome left knee. Both could be back by the playoffs.
"I don't want the rest of our team to feel pressured now. This is just basketball,'' Anthony said. "George has pressure. We're playing basketball.''
Anthony is playing an all-around game as well as he ever has, averaging 28.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.25 steals and shooting 46.2 percent from the field.
He is coming off yet another one of his last-second, game-winning shots, securing a much-needed, 97-96, victory in Toronto Friday night, which snapped a troublesome three-game losing streak.
It might be why he was in such a playoff mood Sunday morning.
"When you lose, everyone is down. Nobody likes to lose and everyone is thinking what they did wrong, what we did wrong as a team,'' he said. "When you win, that all goes out the window. When you win, there is happiness in the air. That (Friday night) was one of the biggest wins of the year for us.''
They may call teammate Chauncey Billups "Mr. Big Shot,'' but Anthony keeps proving to be one of the league's most clutch players. His 18-foot jumper as time-expired in Toronto was the 13th time in his career that he hit a game-winning basket in the final seven seconds.
He beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland last month when he hit a winner with 1.9 seconds remaining. Of his 13 game winners, 11 have been on the road, where he loves the opportunity to spoil someone else's party.
According the Elias Sports Bureau, Anthony has shot 46.7 percent in his career on shots to either take the lead of tie a game in the final 10 seconds, the highest percentage of any NBA player today.
Last week, Anthony had 32 and 36 points, respectively, in losses at Boston and New York. He had only 26 and 25 in recent victories against New Orleans and Toronto. It was before the victory in Toronto that his Nuggets held a players-only meeting where everyone spoke about their role down the stretch.
"I want to do whatever it takes. I'm going to try and get more rebounds, more assists -- and more wins,'' he said. "Winning is all that matters.''