Anthony's buzzer-beater gives Nuggets third straight win
As Nuggets coach George Karl made his way out of the locker room Friday night, he slowed briefly while walking past Carmelo Anthony.
“Thank you, sir,” Karl said with a smile.
Anthony didn’t have the energy to give much more than a small nod. Nothing needed to be said after a gutty performance that ended with Melo adding to his clutch reputation by hitting a 23-foot jumper to give the Nuggets a 98-97 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Slowed by a stomach flu since the beginning of the week, Anthony raised up over Bulls defender Luol Deng and drained his 14th career game-winning shot as time expired. His heroics came after Chicago rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit.
“That’s what great players do. They make great coaches look good,” said Karl, who won his 995th career regular-season game.
Karl also deserves his share of the credit.
With the Nuggets trailing by a point with 24 seconds to go, he told his players to double-team the ball and go for a steal before fouling. Instead of sending 86 percent free-throw shooter Kyle Korver to the line, the Nuggets fouled John Lucas III with 12.9 seconds left.
Lucas, signed by Chicago earlier in the day, was playing in his first NBA game since April 28, 2007. He missed both free throws, giving the Nuggets a chance to win the game.
“I thought they were going to trap and make us pass the ball around,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I wanted guys that could make plays, and it didn’t work out.”
After a timeout, Anthony was unable to connect on a tough shot in traffic, but the Bulls couldn’t corral the ball before it went out of bounds with four seconds left. Karl called a 20-second timeout to draw up a play, but Anthony had other plans.
“I told everybody, regardless of what’s the play, I’m popping out and getting it,” he said. “If we lose the game, it’s on me. If we win the game, it’s on me. I accept that.”
Anthony gained a little redemption from three weeks earlier when his potential game-winner rattle in and out against Dallas. His shot over Deng was within a foot of the one from Nov. 3.
“That same shot, nine out of 10 times I make it,” Anthony said. “I told you that against Dallas.”
Anthony finished with 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists as the Nuggets (9-6) won their third straight game and their second in a row without starting point guard Chauncey Billups.
Billups still has pain and limited motion in his sprained right wrist. He practiced Wednesday but didn’t feel well enough to play Friday.
Two days ago, I practiced a little bit and it felt decent,” Billups said. “Today, it’s worse than it was. I was like, ‘Man, how’d that happen?’
Billups will probably be a game-time decision for Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns. He is always active and involved during timeouts, but he would rather be helping his team on the court.
“I just hate not playing,” he said. “I hate not being able to be out there, even if I’m not 100 percent. I’m rarely 100 percent anyway. I at least want to be able to do some of the things I normally do. Even passing is tough right now.”
Ty Lawson enjoyed another strong game while filling in for Billups. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, while Nene had 14 of his 18 in the first 24 minutes.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games, games we should’ve won,” Lawson said. “To get a close game and have a win under our belt feels good.”
The Bulls also were short-handed. They played without starting point guard Derrick Rose, the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 26.3 points per game.
C.J. Watson did his best Rose impersonation, scoring 33 points, including the last six of the game for Chicago.
Anthony trumped Watson with his second buzzer-beater in exactly eight months; he hit a jumper to beat Toronto on the road last March 26.
“My mindset (Friday) was just to get a good look at the rim,” Anthony said. “Luol played some good ‘D’ at the end, but I got a little bit of space and just raised up and shot … Whether you’ve got a hand in my face or not, once I get a good look at the rim, I don’t think there’s anything anybody can do.”
And for that, Karl and the Nuggets are thankful.