NBA: Short-handed Jazz tie series by beating Nuggets
AP Sports Writer
DENVER — With Utah running out of big bodies, Deron Williams carried an even bigger load in leading the Jazz to a 114-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night in Game 2 of their Western Conference playoffs.
Williams had 33 points and 14 assists and Carlos Boozer added 20 points and 15 rebounds as the injury-riddled Jazz tied the series at a win each with the series shifting to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Friday night.
Chauncey Billups' 3-point attempt from the top of the key in the closing seconds hit off the back iron and the Nuggets walked dejectedly off the court.
Williams and Kyle Korver made two free throws each in the final 11 seconds to hold off the Nuggets, who had overcome a 14-point third-quarter deficit to take a 102-98 lead with 4½ minutes left.
Utah was playing without two of its most experienced playoff performers in forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf), who is out for this series, and center Mehmet Okur, who tore his left Achilles' tendon in Game 1 and is done for the playoffs.
The Nuggets couldn't capitalize as Kyryo Fesenko played effectively on Nene, and Carmelo Anthony was flustered despite scoring 32 points just 48 hours after his playoff-best 42-point performance in the opener.
Anthony made 14 of 15 free throws but was just 9 of 25 from the field.
Denver is 1-11 all-time when Anthony fouls out and he was whistled for his sixth foul with 25 seconds left and the Nuggets down by a point.
The officials blew the call, however. C.J. Miles stepped out of bounds before Anthony fouled him, but the crew didn't see it and Miles made both free throws for a 110-107 lead.
Trailing by 12 points at halftime, the Nuggets floundered through the first 7 minutes of the second half, falling behind 76-62 on Boozer's putback dunk before using a 14-0 run to tie it.
J.R. Smith hit a long 3-pointer during the run, and Anthony stole the ball at the other end, nearly lost it several times dribbling through traffic up court but still managed to put a rim-rattling floater through the net to make it 76-71 and force the Jazz to call a timeout.
When they returned to the court, the Nuggets continued their run and Anthony's four free throws tied it at 76 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
Williams ended a 5-minute scoring drought for Utah with two free throws, and the Jazz recovered to take an 88-82 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to Korver's three jumpers in the final 90 seconds.
The Jazz shot 68 percent in the first half and took a 63-51 lead after closing the half on a 17-3 run that had Denver's fans booing them through the tunnel almost as much as they jeered the officiating crew moments later.
Boozer had four baskets in the run, and rookie Wesley Matthews swished a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner as the crowd sat in stunned silence as the short-handed Jazz manhandled the Nuggets on both ends.
During Utah's run, Smith missed an uncontested layup, Billups picked up uncharacteristic fouls on both ends of the court and the Nuggets couldn't even get off a final shot, whistled for a shot-clock violation with half a second left in the first half.
Fesenko, who packs 300 pounds on his 7-foot-1 frame, gave the Jazz more bulk inside after they allowed 52 points in the paint in the opener.
"I'm not going to expect him to go out and get 20 rebounds. I think that's unfair. Or get 20 points," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said before the game. "Just come and play hard, try to understand what we're doing. Try not to make any mistakes."
After Anthony's big game in the opener, the Jazz talked about being more physical with him in Game 2, although Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley was skeptical they could do that effectively with young players Matthews and Miles: "They're not Kirilenko. They're not Matt Harpring," Dantley said.
They were just as effective on this night, however.