Hornets 114, Nuggets 112, OT
DENVER (AP)—Desmond Mason didn’t wait to celebrate his first NBA game-winner.
“I knew it went in on time,” said Mason, who led the Hornets with 23 points. “When I put the ball up I didn’t see a red light. When it left my hand there was no red light. I laid the ball in and actually turned around the other way because I knew it was a bucket.”
“I caught it and went straight up as quick as possible,” Mason said. “I was focused on Chris Paul and then the ball got tipped. I looked down, got the ball and went straight up. Nene was a couple of inches from blocking it.”
The Nuggets cold have used Marcus Camby in that situation, but he was in street clothes for the second straight game with a strained groin.
A disconsolate Anthony, who scored 27 points but threw up an airball with 2.9 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 103, skipped his scheduled postgame trip to the podium. Instead, he sat, staring into his locker while still in uniform for nearly an hour after the game’s frenetic finish.
J.R. Smith, who shot only 3-of-13 against his former team, had tied it at 112 with a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.
“I knew J.R. all last year. J.R. is a great shooter,” Paul said. “He had some looks, but not many fell. He did hit the biggest one of them all.”
The Hornets, who ruined Allen Iverson’s return from a four-game absence, never led in regulation, which ended with Anthony tying up Paul on his way to the basket at the buzzer.
“He reached out and grabbed my arm,” Paul said. “The ref said he couldn’t make that kind of call with the score tied up.”
Paul gave the Hornets their first lead with a 3-pointer 26 seconds into overtime, and they didn’t trail again.
Iverson scored 22 but aggravated his sprained right ankle. He acknowledged he rushed back too soon to try to help his struggling team, which has lost seven of eight.
“I can’t help us out there like this,” Iverson said. “I tried as hard as I can tonight, but it just wasn’t me. I couldn’t move the way I wanted to move and I couldn’t get to the basket the way I normally do. I felt at times like I had to settle for jumpers because I couldn’t get there all the way. Rather than hurt my team, I am going to re-evaluate the situation. I can’t play if I feel like this.”
He said he might miss the next couple of games because “I don’t want this bothering me for the rest of the season. My speed is a big part of my game and when I can’t move by people the way I want to I know something is wrong.”
Iverson also suggested for the first time that he might have to miss the All-Star game.
“This is more important than the All-Star game,” Iverson said. “This means more to me than the All-Star game. I have been there and done that in my career. If I have to (skip it), if that’s the right thing for me to do, then that is exactly what I will do. That is something that I haven’t thought about because I don’t care about that right now. I care about this team right here.”
If Iverson backs out of his eighth All-Star appearance, that would give Anthony another crack at making his first All-Star team as one of commissioner David Stern’s injury replacement picks.
Stern has said he won’t hold Anthony’s 15-game suspension for fighting against him when choosing replacements for the Feb. 18 game in Las Vegas.
On the eve of this game, Nuggets coach George Karl said he thought he’d have a hard time keeping Smith from getting too excited about facing the team that gave up on him last summer. He was right to be concerned: Smith missed his first eight shots, including consecutive airballs, before scoring his first basket with 10:19 left in the game. He finished with just nine points.
Tyson Chandler has pulled down 12 or more rebounds in each of his last eight games, breaking Anthony Mason’s franchise mark of seven straight such games set in March 1997. … Denver had won six straight overtime games.