Nuggets 98, Thunder 94

Before he blacked out, the last thing Carmelo Anthony 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 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 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 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 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 to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League for the
third time this season.