Nuggets rally past Thunder 98-94

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Before he blacked out, the last thing Carmelo Anthony(notes) remembered was being booed by Oklahoma City fans as he lay on his back on the Ford Center floor.

By the time he and the rest of the Denver Nuggets were done, the Thunder’s largest crowd of the season had nothing to cheer about.

Chauncey Billups(notes) scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and led the Nuggets out of a 13-point hole to beat Oklahoma City 98-94 on Wednesday night. Denver moved back into a tie for second place in the Western Conference.

“It was big that he did that,” Anthony said. “I’m pretty sure that he saw that I was not even 50 percent out there and he just took over. For some odd reason, we were running plays and they were not leaving me and leaving the whole other side of the court wide open for Chauncey to do what he was doing.”

Anthony finished with 24 points after being knocked unconscious in the final minute of the third quarter and then returning to play most of the fourth quarter.

“Of course, I wanted to go out there and still be productive,” Anthony said. “But as I was out there, I started getting a headache and Chauncey took over for us.”

The Nuggets held Oklahoma City without a basket for the final 9 minutes while finishing the game on a 22-5 run. Billups hit two free throws that put Denver ahead 96-94 with 52.7 seconds left.

Kevin Durant(notes) scored 33 points but missed a shot in the lane that would’ve tied the score in the final 10 seconds. Anthony followed that with two free throws to clinch it with 6.8 seconds left.

“I think it was just guts in this game,” Billups said. “We rebounded, we got the tough ones, we got the loose balls a lot of times. That’s really what prevailed in this game.”

It was a chance for redemption for Durant on the same day the NBA admitted officials failed to call a foul that could’ve given him a chance for game-winning free throws a night earlier in a loss at Utah.

Instead, Durant missed his final six shots while breaking from his usual routine and playing all 24 minutes in the second half despite a late return after the previous night’s overtime game. Russell Westbrook(notes) added 21 points but also committed seven turnovers. Oklahoma City missed its final 13 shots.

Denver came into the game off of a three-day break.

“No excuses,” Durant said. “No excuses.”

Oklahoma City dropped a half-game behind sixth-place San Antonio and was a half-game ahead of eighth-place Portland, with both teams playing later Wednesday.

It was the latest in a series of heartbreaking defeats Denver has handed the Thunder on their home court at the Ford Center, this time in front a crowd of 18,332 as additional seats were made available in the upper deck.

Anthony had hit a pair of game-winners in the final 6 seconds of wins at Oklahoma City last season but missed Denver’s first visit to the Ford Center this season with an injury. For a brief time, it appeared he wouldn’t be around for what ended up being a thrilling finish.

Anthony left the game in the final minute of the third quarter after an odd sequence in which officials allowed play to resume after a dead ball even though Anthony was splayed out on his back. Official Scott Wall appeared to ask whether Denver wanted to call a timeout and then allowed Oklahoma City to inbound the ball.

Anthony rammed head first into Durant’s chest as he tried to make a move at the right elbow and was called for traveling as the players fell to the floor.

“When I first fell I was (conscious) and then I just went out. I don’t remember anything but waking up and seeing a bunch of people,” Anthony said.

Anthony walked to the locker room, where team doctors assessed him and told him he had no signs of a concussion.

“One of the doctors asked me to say the months backwards,” Anthony said. “I can’t do that on a regular day.”

He returned to the bench before the fourth quarter began and was greeted by a chorus of boos when he checked in 47 seconds into the final period, then booed more lightly when he touched the ball in the minutes that followed.

The Thunder were up as much as 89-76 after Nick Collison’s(notes) free throw with 7:21 to play but managed only five free throws the rest of the way.

Billups sparked a 10-0 run by Denver with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer. The Nuggets finally pulled even at 94 when Nene followed Anthony’s bank shot with a right-handed jam over Durant with 1:32 remaining.

“That kind of deflates the whole team,” Durant said of the offensive funk. “We were getting stops but we couldn’t make shots, and they came back and hit some big shots. That’s the game.”

NOTES: Even though coach George Karl hasn’t been with the Nuggets while undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he thinks “they still play the way that he wants that team to play.” Brooks was a former assistant for Karl in Denver. “He’s a fighter. He’s as tough and as strong of a man mentally as you’re going to find,” Brooks said. “That’s one of the things that I learned while I was with him a couple years in Denver. You have to coach your team no matter what are the surrounding circumstances.” … Oklahoma City assigned F D.J. White(notes) to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League for the third time this season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Denver
C. Billups Chauncey Billups
9-20,  31 Pts
8 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Oklahoma City
K. Durant Kevin Durant
9-21,  33 Pts
11 Rebs, 4 Assists

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Wednesday, Apr 7