DENVER (AP) — Down the stretch, the cool, assured play of the Denver Nuggets’ oldest and most experienced player carried his team through the game’s toughest moments.
Andre Miller scored each of his 18 points in the second half, including four free throws in the final 10.2 seconds, and the Nuggets edged the Memphis Grizzlies 99-94 on Friday night.
“He is amazing with some of the stuff he does and how he gets it done,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We don’t win this game without Andre Miller, without a question. It was a slow-down, drag, pull teeth, punch, grab, hold, kind of an old-school basketball game. I think it is a really classy win for us. It is a tough-minded win against a team that I think is going to be very, very successful this year.”
Miller, who turns 37 in March, scored several key baskets on a series of fast breaks as the Nuggets’ transition game flourished in the second half.
“It’s just one of those games where some easy baskets just came to me; nothing was forced and that was just how the game played out,” Miller said
Andre Iguodala scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who came off a grueling eight-day, five-game road trip to win their fourth in a row at home.
Rudy Gay had 21 points for Memphis, which has lost three straight games for the first time this season. Marreese Speights and Mike Conley scored 14 points apiece and Wayne Ellington had 11.
Gay said the Grizzlies would bounce back.
“This is where we show who we are. We’re going to find a way to get out of this,” he said.
The Grizzlies lost Darrell Arthur at the end of the first quarter when he was struck in the mouth while trying to rebound a missed free throw. Arthur lay on the floor for several minutes receiving treatment from medical personnel before being helped to his feet and walking to the locker room for additional treatment.
Trailing by four at the break, the Grizzlies evened the score at 69 on Ellington’s 3-pointer that beat the third-quarter buzzer.
Ellington hit another 3-pointer with 7:22 remaining that put Memphis in front 81-80 but the next time down, JaVale McGee blocked a short jumper by Zach Randolph, starting a fast break that Ty Lawson finished with a go-ahead layup for the Nuggets.
Memphis regained the lead on a 19-foot jumper by Gay that made it 85-84, but Denver’s Danilo Gallinari answered with a 3-pointer.
Gallinari, who finished with 14 points, added a pair of free throws with 3:09 remaining and Lawson hit two more 32 seconds later to stretch the Nuggets’ advantage to four points.
After a pair of free throws by Marc Gasol, Iguodala rebounded Gallinari’s missed jumper and put it back in before a Memphis turnover led to a Nuggets fast break that Iguodala finished with a jam for 95-89 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Gasol converted a three-point play to get the Grizzlies within one with 53.8 seconds left but the sides then traded turnovers and Miller was fouled with 10.2 seconds remaining. He made both free throws to give the Nuggets a three-point cushion.
“Andre Miller is clutch,” McGee said. “He makes all of his free throws and does all the dirty work. He’s a great player.”
Gay’s attempted 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left rimmed out, and Miller made two more foul shots to secure the win.
“It felt good,” Gay said of his near miss. “Got my timing down, my feet under me and shot it. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t.
“But I feel like we could have won this game, whether that shot went down or not. I think it was a couple of crucial plays that happened earlier in the fourth quarter. It shouldn’t have come down to that last shot. With all due respect to that team — and they’re a great team, they play hard — but I think we lost this game.”
Lawson hit a 16-foot jumper with three seconds left in the second quarter to give the Nuggets, down by 10 earlier in the quarter, a 45-41 lead at halftime.
After a layup by McGee put the Nuggets in front 21-18, the Grizzlies put together a 13-0 run that featured three baskets by Speights and a 3-pointer by Ellington.
But the Nuggets got right back into it, scoring 10 of the next 13 points, including 3-pointers by Gallinari and Lawson.
NOTES: The game was preceded by a moment of silence in honor of the victims of a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school earlier in the day. … The Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler remains sidelined by a left hip injury. … Gay has scored at least 14 points in a career-best 23 consecutive games, including all 20 this season. … The Grizzlies’ Jerryd Bayless tied a career high with 11 assists but was held scoreless for the first time this season, going 0 for 5 from the floor. … Kosta Koufos (four) and McGee (four) combined for eight of the Nuggets’ 10 blocked shots.