TORONTO (Ticker) -- Vince Carter
would not be outdone by Nick Van Exel
or Ryan Bowen
After making sure the game reached overtime, Carter drilled a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining in the extra session, giving the Toronto Raptors a 98-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
In a contest featuring two of NBA's top six scorers, it looked like Van Exel would get the best of Carter following a scintillating second-half performance.
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Vince Carter and the Raptors have every right to celebrate their thrilling OT win.
Van Exel went scoreless in the opening half before scoring 27 points after intermission. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws that gave Denver an 87-84 lead with 4.3 seconds remaining.
But Carter came through, with a little help. Double-teamed in the corner, Carter was fouled by George McCloud attempting a 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation. An 80 percent foul shooter, Carter sank three straight shots to force the extra session.
"Their whole bench was talking, but I was able to throw them off by smiling," Carter said. "It's tough after you get two because then it's the most important one. It all seemed like it was in slow motion. By midway, I knew it was good."
Van Exel had a chance to win it in regulation and appeared to get bumped by Alvin Williams while trying a 3-pointer as time expired. But the officials failed to call it, and Van Exel and coach Dan Issel just shook their heads in disgust.
Afterward, Van Exel, who has a history of run-ins with referees, had some choice words for the NBA.
"The NBA wants us to respect the officials but they have to respect the players," Van Exel said. "It's a two-way street. The bottom teams, we want a fair shake. I didn't see that happening tonight. The NBA needs to look at this game to see if we got a fair shake."
"I feel like we should've won the game. We definitely had some calls that didn't go in our favor," McCloud said. "They made a call that was a deciding factor in the game and didn't make it on the other end."
In a back-and-forth overtime, Bowen made his only basket of the game in acrobatic fashion to give Denver a 96-95 lead with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Carter pulled up over James Posey along the right wing and sank another 3-pointer to give Toronto the lead for good.
"You take it any way you could get it," Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said. "Vince stepped up really big. He hit big shots. We went to him at the end of the game and he delivered."
Denver nearly won in dramatic fashion. On the inbounds pass, McCloud made a beautiful lob from the right side to Raef LaFrentz, who went up over Carter. But his drop shot rattled in and out as time expired.
"Vince got a finger on it, but I still have to convert that," LaFrentz said.
Carter finished with 42 points -- seven in overtime -- and matched a career high with 15 rebounds for Toronto, which gained a split of the season series.
Van Exel, among the league leaders in shots per game at 23.1, missed his only four shots in a scoreless first half as the Nuggets trailed, 48-36. Carter had 18 points in the opening half.
But Van Exel's trigger finger started to warm up in the third quarter as he made 3-of-8 shots. The volatile point guard saved his best for the fourth quarter.
Van Exel tried to will his team to victory in the final period and made two foul shots with 6:54 remaining, giving Denver its second lead of the contest at 74-72.
After Carter made two foul shots to give the Raptors an 82-80 lead with 1:22 left, Van Exel scored his club's final seven points of regulation. But Carter, who went 13-of-30 from the field, spoiled the effort by converting at the line to send the game into overtime.
Van Exel made 9-of-24 shots, including 5-of-12 from 3-point range. As a team, Denver went 8-of-14 from beyond the arc.
"Nick was tremendous in the second half. That was why we were able to come back and make a game of it," Issel said.
In the overtime, Van Exel was called for traveling with 1:24 left. After Toronto's Chris Childs missed a 3-pointer, McCloud gave the Nuggets the lead back with a shot from beyond the arc with 35 seconds left.
Carter drove the baseline and scored over LaFrentz to give the Raptors the lead before Bowen's basket put Denver in front for the last time.
LaFrentz scored 16 points and Scott Williams matched a season high with 16 for Denver, which shot 40 percent (37-of-91) and was in the game despite getting outrebounded, 58-43.
Carter led the charge on the boards for Toronto and Keon Clark, starting in place of Antonio Davis (sore left knee) added 12 with 16 points.
Alvin Williams scored 17 points for Toronto, which shot just 38 percent (36-of-94).