DENVER (AP)—The Denver Nuggets stayed in the game with a desperation 3-pointer and a trick play that works maybe once a season. It made the way they lost it seem that much more shocking—by allowing a run-of-the-mill layup on an unpardonable defensive slip-up.
“We definitely had a breakdown on that last play,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.
On the inbound play after a timeout, Harris moved through several picks to get lost in the crowd. He got free from Andre Miller, then scooted toward the basket and found himself alone, taking a pass from Josh Howard for the easy winning layup.
“Great pass from Josh. I didn’t have to dribble,” Harris said. “I just turned to shoot it.”
Greg Buckner’s desperation heave at the buzzer fell way short and the Nuggets, still struggling nearly halfway through the season, finished a key homestand at 2-4.
It was hardly the way anyone would have expected this hard-fought game to end, especially with the way Denver stayed alive.
At the end of regulation, Carmelo Anthony made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie it at 100. Then, with 3.6 seconds left in overtime, Kenyon Martin tipped in Miller’s intentionally missed free throw to tie it again at 112.
“We just made a couple of plays, but not enough plays,” said Martin, who toughed it out after spending several long stretches on the bench with an ice pack on his back.
Anthony (28 points) was so close to the line on his game-tying 3-pointer that referee Dick Bavetta had to go to the video to make sure his foot wasn’t touching the paint. After about 60 seconds, Bavetta signaled the shot was worth 3 and the teams played on.
Nowitzki’s second big shot, a 16-footer after he got open off a head fake, put the Mavs up 112-109 and put the Nuggets into desperation mode with only 8.5 seconds left and no timeouts.
Miller got the ball and got fouled. He hit his first free throw, then tried the 1-in-100 play, intentionally missing the free throw and hoping for a tip-in. Martin did just that to tie it with 3.6 seconds left.
“I told all the guys not to go in too early,” Martin said, explaining his perfect timing on the play.
After a Dallas timeout, Nowitzki was banging around in traffic and the Nuggets looked to be focusing on covering him on the inbound play. That might explain how Harris (11 points) found himself so wide open for the game-winner.
“You have to keep your composure down the stretch,” Nowitzki said. “Basketball is a game of mistakes. They made the mistake at the end. A huge mistake.”
Miller didn’t deem the last play a breakdown.
“He went under the basket,” Miller said. “I was thinking otherwise. I was more helping than anything.”
To Miller’s credit, the Nuggets wouldn’t have been close without him.
Suffering with the flu, he was sensational in the fourth quarter, twisting, turning and doing everything he could to keep Denver in reach of the Mavs. He scored 12 of his 21 points in the quarter and also finished with 11 assists.
Meanwhile, before Nowitzki took over the overtime, Terry was key for the Mavericks.
He made a basket to trim Dallas’ deficit to 105-104. Then, he had an “assist”—actually an airball—that dropped into Howard’s hands for a layup to make it 106-105. Then, Terry made it a three-point lead with a layup off a pass from Howard, who scooped it up when Martin mishandled the ball.
“We had a lot of energy and converted and got a lot of good stuff, but that is a tough way to lose a game,” Karl said.
The Mavs improved to 24-9, well within striking range of San Antonio (26-7) in the tough Southwest Division. The Nuggets, meanwhile, failed again to gain ground in the weak Northwest, falling to 16-18 and staying a game behind Minnesota.
The Mavericks expect assistant coach Rolando Blackman to rejoin the team when they return to Dallas. Blackman has been suffering with pneumonia. … The Nuggets fell to 0-4 this season in overtime games.