for this game

Kleiza helps Nuggets crown Kings

Dec 24, 2007 - 6:28 AM By Tom Galland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) - After a successful road trip, the Sacramento Kings planned on keeping things rolling back on their home floor. Linas Kleiza and the Denver Nuggets spoiled those plans.

Kleiza hit a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer to lift the Nuggets to a stunning come-from-behind win, 106-105 over the Kings on Sunday at Arco Arena.

Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but it was Kleiza's 12 that proved to be the difference.

Ron Artest fell just short of a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Kings.

"We definitely stole one," Denver guard Allen Iverson said. "Our whole thing when we started the second half was just to get it under ten. We just kept fighting. Nothing was going right for us, but we kept playing and were able to pull it out.

"A young player, to do something like that, it was special. I was just happy to be part of it."

Denver staged a rally by heating up from long range late in the contest. The Nuggets hit four 3-pointers in just under nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Iverson's shot from the arc with 3:25 remaining cut the deficit to four points at 101-97.

After an Artest basket, Iverson converted a 3-point play and Kleiza scored on a driving layup to pull Denver within one.

The Nuggets missed a chance to take the lead moments later when Marcus Camby was called for traveling. Sacramento's Beno Udrih made them pay with a 16-foot jumper from the wing to make it 105-102.

"We have a great ability to defend and get back into games," Denver coach George Karl said. "Unfortunately, we dig ourselves (into) a lot of holes. But we seem to be good at digging ourselves out of them."

Kleiza missed a 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining but the Kings top free throw shooters, Udrih and Brad Miller, missed four from the line in the final seconds to give the Nuggets a chance.

From there, Kleiza delivered the final blow. After a mad scramble following an Iverson miss with seven seconds left, the ball found its way to Kleiza. The Nuggets' forward calmly checked the shot clock on the opposite end, then turned and delivered the dagger.

"I got a rebound and was able to look at the opposite side shot clock," Kleiza said. "Time was running down, I just turned around and shot. Last game in Portland, (Travis) Outlaw blocked my shot. This time they weren't able to block it. I'm happy it went in."

"I just thought we had the rebound," Artest said. "Then he just popped in and (got it). I was praying that it wouldn't go in."

Kleiza said he had never hit a game-winner at the buzzer in his career prior to this one.

"That's definitely a first one, walk-off game winner," said Kleiza, who hit three of four shots in the final quarter. "To come back and pull it off is just a great feeling, period."

Iverson finished with 21 points but had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, making just 6-of-21 shots.

"I probably would still be dwelling on it if (Kleiza) didn't hit that shot and we would have lost the game," Iverson said. "That long flight home, I probably would have been thinking about it all night. But it's a distant memory now."

Camby sparked a Denver rally with eight consecutive points late in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to six. But Miller scored on a 3-point play and Artest closed the quarter with a shot from the arc to give Sacramento an 87-77 lead heading into the fourth.

"It's a pretty good Christmas present for those guys," Sacramento coach Reggie Theus said. "Not a whole lot to say other than we outplayed them. We missed free throws down the stretch - that's the bottom line."

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