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Late defensive push carries Nuggets past Bucks

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets followed one of their worst defensive halves with one of their best.

After allowing Milwaukee to shoot a scorching 60.8 percent in the first 24 minutes, Denver clamped down in the second half. The Nuggets held the Bucks to 34 percent second-half shooting and forced 11 turnovers after the break to rally from 17 down and beat Milwaukee 112-104 Tuesday night.

Ty Lawson scored seven of his 22 points in the final 3:06, and Danilo Gallinari also had 22 for the Nuggets, who won their seventh in a row thanks to their defense.

"We were very good defensively in the second half, and we were awful in the first half," Denver coach George Karl said.

That poor early defense helped lead to a career night for Samuel Dalembert. The Bucks center made 17 of his first 19 shots and scored a career-high 35 points, but his record night was overshadowed by Milwaukee's third loss in its past four games.

"It's one of those nights you try to make the best of your opportunities. The past five games I was able to get out on the floor and get some minutes," said Dalembert, who also set a career high in made field goals, finishing 17-for-21. "When you get the groove and you're in a zone, you continue."

The Nuggets couldn't figure out Dalembert, but they did enough in the closing minutes to pull out a win. Down 100-93 with 6:13 left, they ended the game on a 19-4 run.

"We could have just given up and gone through the motions, but we did not," Lawson said. "We showed we have a lot of poise down the stretch."

It was a collective effort. Corey Brewer scored 20 for Denver, and Kenneth Faried added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Brewer also had two big steals in the fourth quarter that helped the Nuggets overcome a nine-point deficit.

"We missed some timely shots, a couple of turnovers. The second half was not a good ball-handling half," Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said. "Against a team like this, they turn those over into points pretty quick. That was a key to the game."

The loss might have been a costly one for the Bucks. Starting center Larry Sanders, who had 12 points and five blocks, fell hard on his back trying to block Faried's dunk attempt with 4:41 left. He was down on the court for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.

"It's the back of the hip bone," Sanders said. "They did a couple of X-rays, but it's nothing too serious. I'll take care of this and get back as fast as I can."

The Bucks led by seven heading into the fourth quarter and stretched it to nine on jumper by Dalembert with 7:52 left before the Nuggets made a run. Faried had a dunk, and Gallinari hit a free throw and a 3-pointer to cut Denver's deficit to 100-97.

After another free throw from Faried sliced the margin to two, Brewer had a steal and dunk to tie the game at 100 with 3:36 left.

Lawson's two free throws gave Denver its first lead, 104-102, with 3:06 left.

"We have no quit," Faried said. "These guys don't want to quit and give up on each other."

The Bucks (25-22) trailed by one when the Nuggets' defense came up big. Two straight steals by the Nuggets led to fast-break buckets and gave Denver a 108-103 lead with 1:27 left.

"Winning by eight points, I never thought that was going to happen at the five minute mark," Karl said.

The Nuggets (31-18) came out strong in the third quarter and quickly cut a 15-point deficit to three. However, Milwaukee finished the period strong to take an 86-79 lead into the fourth.

Dalembert was nearly perfect in the first half, hitting his first nine shots and finishing 10-for-11 from the field for 21 points.

Brandon Jennings was the catalyst for the late-second-quarter surge that gave Milwaukee a double-digit advantage. Jennings scored eight points in the last 3:48 as the Bucks took a 66-51 lead at the break.

NOTES: Nuggets center JaVale McGee returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sore left shin. ... The Bucks' all-time record in Denver fell to 8-34. ... The Nuggets have five games left before the All-Star break, and Milwaukee has four. "I've already talked to the team about how crazy things happen in these stretch of games," Karl said. "If you follow the scoreboard, there are a lot of 25- and 30-point leads in the second half of games. It's just a difficult time to keep a focus. When one team doesn't have focus and the other team has intense focus, bad games happen." ... Boylan and Karl are both cancer survivors and share a bond. "For both of us, I can imagine every day is a little bit nicer and we appreciate where we're at and just enjoy the moment," Boylan said.
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