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Billups' late free throws carry Nuggets over Mavericks

Jan 14, 2009 - 6:23 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- A questionable foul call with two seconds left put Chauncey Billups at the free-throw line with a chance to essentially win the game for the Denver Nuggets. As usual, the All-Star point guard was automatic from the line, burying both shots to lift the Nuggets to a 99-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

After Dirk Nowitzki's driving dunk with 19 seconds remaining tied the game at 97-97, the Nuggets called timeout and set up one final play. They made sure to get the ball to their floor general, who took off down the middle of the lane and threw up a shot, drawing light contact that brought a foul call on Mavs guard Jason Terry with two seconds left.

"The (referee) said I hit him with the body," Terry said. "(Billups) kicked his leg out falling down so I don't see how I could hit him with the body. That happens - human error."

"It was a tough call," Nowitzki said. "Chauncey was hung up in the air, had really nowhere to go, kicked his leg out and gets the call."

The rest was easy for Billups.

Dallas never got off a final shot, as Jason Kidd's ensuing cross-court inbounds pass was intercepted by Chris Andersen. The decisive whistle, however, certainly caught the Mavericks' ire. Head coach Rick Carlisle was livid on the sidelines and Mark Cuban took to the hardwood after the final buzzer to yell at the officials.

Billups finished with 23 points and four assists and Andersen provided a major boost off the bench with 15 points and 10 boards for Denver.

"I think everybody gave a good effort," Andersen said. "Everybody had everybody's back and was in the right rotations."

The Nuggets continued to handle the Mavericks, improving to 3-0 in head-to-head meetings this season and wrapping up the season series for the second straight season. The Mavericks can salvage one win in the final meeting of the campaign on March 27 in Dallas.

Overall, Denver won for the sixth time in seven games despite the continued absence of star forward Carmelo Anthony, who is out with a fractured bone in his right hand. The Olympian is expected to miss the next two weeks.

"A sign of a good team is winning when shorthanded and not playing your best basketball," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We've been doing that quite frequently lately."

The Mavericks, who have lost three straight, spoiled a stellar effort from Nowitzki. The former league MVP dropped in 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting and 12-of-12 from the line.

"We really deserved to win that game but just lost on a couple of tough bounces," Nowitzki said. "It's frustrating, but that's what it is in the NBA. One night you get the call and one night you don't."

However, most of his teammates struggled offensively. Terry, Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright and Jose Juan Barea combined to go 9-of-38.

The Nuggets had been in full control for much of the night before allowing the Mavs to sneak back in during the third quarter. Nene's layup with 11:13 remaining in the third quarter gave Denver its biggest lead of the game, 64-47.

But the Mavericks, who were without forward Josh Howard for the second straight game due to a sprained left wrist, stormed back with a 25-8 run to tie it at 72-72. Nowitzki scored 11 points during the spurt.

"We really battled," Carlisle said. "I'm not disappointed in the effort but I am disappointed that we couldn't finish it off because the guys really fought hard."

The Nuggets answered by scoring the next six points and opening up a nine-point advantage in the final session, but the Mavericks wouldn't go away. Terry buried a pair of 3-pointers and Nowitzki knocked down eight free throws to highlight an 18-5 run that gave Dallas a 95-91 edge with 1:31 left.

But the Nuggets reclaimed the lead with a 6-0 run, culminating in Anthony Carter's opportunistic layup on a fast break after Wright's 20-footer misfired, caromed wildly off the rim and bounced to Carter.

Nene collected 20 points and six boards for Denver, which has two games remaining on its seven-game homestand.