Smith's tally included 10 three-pointers as the NBA's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony added 24 points to help Denver return to winning ways at home
Smith's 41 points get the Nuggets back on track
JR Smith came off the bench to score 41 points and spark the Denver Nuggets to a 124-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Smith's tally included 10 three-pointers as the NBA's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony added 24 points to help the Nuggets return to winning ways at home following two road defeats. Jamal Crawford had a team-high 24 points for the Hawks (20-8) who entered the contest on the back of seven wins in eight and are enjoying one of their best starts in franchise history.
Forced to play again without their starting point guard Chauncey Billups, who has a groin injury, the Nuggets charged into the lead from the outset and blew the game open in the fourth quarter when Smith knocked in four three-pointers. It's great to have a player who can take over and end a game like JR has done," said the Denver coach George Karl. "There's no question he was in a zone." Elsewhere, the NBA Southeast Division leaders Orlando Magic won a third successive game as Dwight Howard played a key role in their 102-87 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Howard pulled down 20 rebounds and scored 13 points as the Magic shared the spoils with five players reaching double figures. The Cleveland Cavaliers needed overtime to overcome the Sacramento Kings, pulling well clear and keeping their opponents scoreless in the extra period to win 117-104. The Kings had hauled themselves level in the final quarter but had nothing left, and Cleveland were unforgiving. LeBron James gave the outstanding performance with 34 points and 16 rebounds.
The Detroit Pistons slumped to a sixth successive defeat, dismally losing 94-64 to the Toronto Raptors, who were led by 21 points from Andrea Bargnani. Kevin Durant's 38-point performance helped the Oklahoma City Thunder eke out a 117-113 victory against the Phoenix Suns, for whom Amare Stoudemire scored 35 points. The Golden State Warriors will head into Christmas on the back of a seven-match losing streak after a 108-102 loss away to the New Orleans Hornets.
Jerryd Bayless scored 31 points in the Portland Trail Blazers' 98-94 win over the San Antonio Spurs, while Al Jefferson had a game-high 27 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their 103-99 victory over fellow stragglers the New Jersey Nets. Dwyane Wade's 29 points helped the Miami Heat post an 80-70 win against the Utah Jazz, and Antawn Johnson's 25-point game allowed the Washington Wizards to down the Milwaukee Bucks 109-97.
* With agencies