When asked before Wednesday night's game if the Bulls were a team Denver should beat, rookie Carmelo Anthony danced the dance of the cliches well enough to make a veteran proud.
Earlier Wednesday, Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik had called his Monday night guarantee that Denver would snap its season-high three-game losing streak against the Bulls an "idiotic statement."
But Anthony and Bzdelik needn't have bothered with all the backtracking. Guaranteeing a victory against the Bulls isn't exactly going out on a limb.
Losing for the 22nd straight time in Western Conference arenas, Anthony scored 21 points, Rodney White added a team-high 24 off the bench and Marcus Camby contributed 12 points and 24 reboundstying an NBA season-highas Denver prevailed 115-99 before a Pepsi Center crowd of 15,420.
"I was like, 'We're not going to lose four in a row,'" Anthony said.
The Bulls trailed 72-66 midway through the third quarter but surrendered an 11-2 run and never again threatened.
Kirk Hinrich never found a rhythm after getting whistled for three first-quarter fouls. He finished with 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Crawford also started slowly, but for a different reason.
Coach Scott Skiles yanked him 88 seconds after tipoff for failing to dive on the floor for a loose ball. Crawford's replacement, Rick Brunson, hit a jump shot, but Crawford returned 46 seconds later.
The first two games on this seven-game trip could be viewed as auditions for Crawford, who is a restricted free agent this summer. The Clippers and Nuggets are two of four teams with salary-cap roomalong with Phoenix and Utahwho have needs at guard and could tender an offer sheet for Crawford.
"I want to stay with Chicago, for sure," Crawford said. "That's my No. 1 choice. That's why I wanted to do a deal last summer, so I wouldn't have to get to this point."
But management remains hot-and-cold on Crawford.
If Crawford is playing elsewhere, one scenario that could ease the loss would be if the Clippers agree to trade Marko Jaric and Melvin Ely for Marcus Fizer. That seems like a lot to give up for the up-and-down Fizer, but the Clippers may be clearing more cap room for a free-agent run at Kobe Bryant.
After scoring 10 points in 10 minutes in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Fizer played 21 minutes and contributed 16 points against Denver. Fizer returns to Portland on Saturday, where he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Jan. 31.
"People that were around Marcus all last year and the year before say that he doesn't seem the samethe way he moves," Skiles said. "I don't know that it's injury related. It's probably he hasn't gotten the same playing time. When he has gotten playing time, he has had a tendency to press a bit, which is typical.
"I think he has been more a victim of circumstance than anything else."
The Bulls are victims a lot these days.