DeSagana Diop was, swatting away Anthony’s layup attempt with 2.9 seconds left and preserving an 83-80 victory for the Mavericks on Tuesday night.
“I didn’t see (Diop). He came out of nowhere,” Nowitzki said. “He saved the game for us.”
Diop set career highs with 16 rebounds and six blocks, while Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points and Marquise Daniels added a season-high 17. No other Mavs were in double figures, part of the reason they needed the big rally.
Nowitzki scored 17 points after the Nuggets’ lead peaked at 64-45 midway through the third quarter. He had seven straight early in the fourth, putting Dallas ahead on a 3-pointer and stretching the lead to five with a breakaway layup soon after.
The Mavs never trailed again, but the Nuggets had plenty of chances. They missed their final seven shots, including Anthony’s failed drive and a long 3-pointer by DerMarr Johnson at the buzzer that was partially blocked by Dallas’ Devin Harris, in falling to 0-4 on the road this season.
“We celebrated a little too early,” Denver coach George Karl said. “We became happy in the third quarter.”
Karl wasn’t pleased with Anthony taking such a tough shot. Anthony’s stance was that he was trying to either hit the basket or draw a foul.
“He’s not going to get that call because he had three guys covering him,” Karl said. “On the road, you’re not going to get many friendly calls.”
Anthony remembers Nowitzki and Diop being around him.
“I don’t know what happened after that,” he said. “It could have went both ways. Bottom line, I missed the shot.”
Diop was in the right place at the right time because he was counting on Anthony going to the basket.
“I knew he was not going to pass it,” Diop said. “When he gets that far under, he’s going to shoot every time.”
Anthony scored a season-high 24 points and Andre Miller added 17. Marcus Camby had 11 points and nine rebounds in his first game since being named Western Conference player of the week, and reserve Eduardo Najera had six points and 10 rebounds.
Kenyon Martin returned to the lineup after missing the previous game to rest his sore left knee, but lasted only eight minutes. The Dallas native had three rebounds and two points, going 1-for-4 with a putback dunk attempt among his misses.
The Mavs needed a big game from backup center Diop because starter Erick Dampier was scoreless in 11 minutes. He didn’t even take a shot or grab a rebound. His stat line showed four fouls and four turnovers, including a pair of 3-second violations.
Diop responded with the steady play he’s showed since signing as a free agent this summer from Cleveland, where he never lived up to the expectations of a top-10 draft pick. Losing about 60 pounds has been a major factor.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in the league,” he said. “Being on the floor when the game’s on the line is great.”
This was only the second home game for Dallas after five on the road. The schedule evens out quickly, though, as this opened a four-game homestand.
The Mavs didn’t seem comfortable on their own court at first, with 16 turnovers and 17 field goals at one point. They gave up a buzzer-beater that cost them the lead at halftime, then allowed Denver to score 15 straight points to open the third quarter.
Dallas coach Avery Johnson tried shaking things up with three timeouts in seven minutes. The last one finally did the trick, sparking a 15-4 run to end that period, followed by a 19-6 run to open the fourth.
Diop’s last block appeared to seal the game at 81-80, but Darrell Armstrong was fouled with 0.5 seconds left. After officials watched a replay to make sure the whistle sounded before time ran out, Armstrong made both free throws. Yet the Nuggets still had a chance to force overtime.
Johnson put up a long 3 off an inbounds pass, but it hardly had a chance.
Dallas was without F Keith Van Horn because of a dislocated middle finger on his right hand. He said he hopes to play Thursday night. … The Nuggets were 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. … Mavs rookie F Josh Powell made his NBA debut in the first quarter. He had two rebounds in five minutes.