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.