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Devonte' Graham and the Spurs stun the Nuggets, who fall into a three-way tie atop the West

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Devonte’ Graham converted a floater in the lane with 0.9 seconds remaining, and the San Antonio Spurs handed Western Conference-leading Denver a potentially damaging loss, rallying from 23 points down to beat the Nuggets 121-120 on Friday night.

The Nuggets (56-25) fell out of sole possession of first place in the West and into a tie with Oklahoma City and Minnesota. Because of tiebreakers, the Thunder were first, the Timberwolves second and and the Nuggets third heading into the final day of the regular season on Sunday.

Denver had won three straight and was coming off a home victory over Minnesota.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing. I mean, really disappointing,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We controlled our own destiny and what we accomplished on Wednesday night, we just gave it right back. You know what I mean? So, it’s easy to get up for Minnesota. I mean, our guys were locked in, they were focused, they were serious. And I don’t think we had the same approach for tonight’s game, but you had a chance to get to the one seed and now, obviously, we’ll likely be the three seed at the end of the day.”

Victor Wembanyama had 34 points and 12 rebounds for the short-handed Spurs, who are last in the West.

Wembanyama slammed the ball onto the court and screamed in celebration after what he later called “maybe the biggest win of the season.”

“It just makes every win feel even more special,” Wembanyama said. “As a growing team, a young team, it’s big for us. We are going to need these kind of wins in the future.”

Jamal Murray had 35 points and Nikola Jokic had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, which led 76-53 early in the third quarter and still had a 17-point advantage early in the fourth.

Graham, who finished with 11 points, got the Spurs within one on a layup with 30.3 seconds left. Jokic missed a 17-footer with 9 seconds remaining to set up Graham’s game-winner.

Sandro Mamukelashvili scored a season-high 21 points and had 12 rebounds for the Spurs (21-60), who avoided matching the worst record in franchise history (20-62 in 1997).

The Spurs were without Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Keldon Johnson, Malaki Branham and Cedi Osman but still outscored the defending NBA champion Nuggets 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

The injuries have led to more playing time for Graham, who had played in only 10 games through February.

“That was great for him and great for all of us to see that for him,” Wembanyama said.

San Antonio cut into Denver’s big leads with a 16-4 run in the third — capped by a 3 from Wembanyama — and a 14-2 burst in the fourth that Mamukelashvili finished with a driving layup.

“We were down 23 and we came back, and I feel like at that point you don’t want to let it up and you go full steam,” Mamukelashvili said. “So happy we got the win.”

The Nuggets missed six of their final seven shots, scoring their final points on Aaron Gordon’s layup with 1:19 left.

Gordon played physical defense against Wembanyama, knocking the 7-foot-3 rookie to the court prior to an inbounds in the first half. No foul was called. A frustrated Wembanyama was later called for his second technical foul of the season.

“You know what motivated me, when he fell on the floor and Gordon was looking at him,” Mamukelashvili said. “If I was on the court, I’d get a tech. I’m telling you right now. I was happy I was sitting on the bench, and I didn’t go on the court because that’s $25,000 that I don’t have.”

UP NEXT

Nuggets: At Memphis on Sunday night.

Spurs: Host Detroit on Sunday night.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba