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Anthony heads for the exit early again

Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- It summed up Carmelo Anthony’s series aptly. One of those shots as he described after Game 3 that “I can make in my sleep,” instead, flat-out missed.

Anthony Carter lobbed the ball to him for a dunk in the third quarter and Anthony muffed it, the ball careening skyward off the rim to half court. That flanked other times in this Game 4, when Anthony slugged the air in disgust or held his hands at his hips after fouling out.

He left late in the fourth quarter, finishing with 21 points on eight-for-20 shooting.

Now, he and the Denver Nuggets can officially clock out.

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He said his team quit after Game 3, although they rallied in Game 4. This after they came out as the aggressor in Los Angeles, looking to set the tone with technical foul after technical foul before being tamed.

They were debunked, dejected and deflated.

That’s five straight playoffs for the Nuggets, five straight first-round exits and five straight playoff defeats to document the start of Anthony’s career.

His playoffs this year had an ominous beginning when Anthony was arrested on a suspicion of DUI charge shortly before they began. Now, he is treading on Tracy McGrady territory. A talented, if flawed, player, unable to get a team out of the first round.

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As teams zero in on him, Anthony’s scoring has dipped from each regular season into the playoffs. This year, it sank from 25.7 points to 22.5.

Still, even after yelling, “Just don’t sit there,” to George Karl, during Saturday’s Game 3, Anthony’s coach said his making the playoffs should be celebrated instead of condemned.

“You don’t want to get me on the philosophy of expectations of playoff basketball because I think it’s a tremendous talent to, for five years, bring your team to a playoff performance as Melo has done,” Karl said. “But in the playoffs, there’s criticism. It’s not a really good performance when you lose. It’s win, lose.

“You’re a loser when you lose and you’re celebrated as a winner when you win. And the truth of the matter is, most playoff series are pretty even. And it comes down to a few plays, a few circumstances and no one’s going to write one guy’s a winner and one guy’s almost a winner. They are always going to write win, lose.”

Still, it’s safe to say the Lakers won this series rather handily. And that the Nuggets lost as they had in their four preceding seasons.

Since being taken third overall in the 2003 NBA draft -- behind LeBron James and Darko Milicic and before Dwyane Wade -- Anthony’s teams have lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves and twice to the San Antonio Spurs, sandwiched between a defeat to the Clippers.

Counting the Lakers, Anthony’s playoff record is 4-20.

“Melo took this franchise five years ago and if someone told me [five] teams have made the playoffs every year since he’s been in the league and he’s made the playoffs every year since he’s been in the league, that’s a compliment to him,” Karl said.

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“There’s a drive and an anger that we haven’t been able to find the secret to win in the first round. But unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast in the Western Conference.”

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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