DENVER (AP) – Carmelo Anthony had 33 points, J.R. Smith added 23 and the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 103-88 for their fifth straight win on Sunday night.

Denver, the NBA’s highest-scoring team, started strong in the first and third quarters against the tired Clippers, shooting 51 percent and getting 27 assists for its second win in its last nine games against Los Angeles. Andre Miller had 14 points and 10 assists, and Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer, went over 30 points for the ninth time in 12 games.

Los Angeles blew a 16-point lead in a 104-96 loss to Minnesota the night before and had trouble shaking off the effects, dropping to 0-5 on the road.

Forcing up bad shots and dribbling into double teams that led to turnovers, the Clippers missed nine of their first 11 shots to trail by nine after six minutes, and were down 36-21 early in the second quarter.

Los Angeles cleaned it up briefly midway through the second, using a 13-2 run to get within four, but that was it.

Already playing without center Chris Kaman, who sprained his ankle against the Timberwolves, Los Angeles lost point guard Sam Cassell for most of the second half with a sprained left ankle.

Cassell, the catalyst for the Clippers’ win over the Nuggets in the first round of last year’s playoffs, was 1-of-4 in just seven first-half minutes and lasted two minutes in the third quarter before coming out.

That left the Clippers with two big holes instead of one and Denver took advantage, opening the second half with a 13-4 run that led to an 87-70 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Corey Maggette had 22 points to lead Los Angeles, which shot 36 percent to lose its fourth straight.

The Clippers gave Anthony fits in last year’s playoffs, holding him to 33 percent shooting to win a five-game series over the Nuggets. They didn’t have much success this time.

Los Angeles tried to double team him early, but Anthony got three quick assists on kickouts. The Clippers abandoned the double-team strategy for a short time, leaving Quinton Ross alone on Anthony, and that didn’t work, either.

Anthony, who was ejected early in the third quarter of the teams’ first meeting this season, bulled his way past the much-smaller Ross on a post move and scored on a couple of alley-oops, finishing the first half with 16 points. He kept it going in the second, getting another alley-oop and a pair of jumpers to push Denver’s lead to 69-56 midway through the third quarter.

Notes: The Clippers are the middle of playing four times in five nights, with games against Sacramento on Tuesday and Memphis the next night. … Part of the cast from the HBO series “The Wire” attended the game.

AP-ES-11-26-06 2242EST

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