Billups has 37; Nuggets edge Warriors in OT
OAKLAND – The Denver Nuggets are back to playing like one of the NBA’s best teams now that Chauncey Billups is healthy and in the lineup.
The groin injury that cost him eight games earlier this season? Gone. Denver’s struggles on the road? Still there, but not looking as imposing a hurdle anymore.
Billups matched his career high with 37 points, including 10 in overtime, and Denver beat the Golden State Warriors 123-118 on Wednesday night for its fourth straight victory.
“I said I didn’t want to come back until I was able to do what I do,” Billups said after leading the Nuggets to their third straight win over the Warriors this season. “I’m feeling good. Ever since I came back, I haven’t felt (the injury) one day.”
Billups scored the Nuggets’ first eight points of the extra period, then went scoreless for nearly two minutes before he and Carmelo Anthony each made two free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the win for Denver.
In the six games since returning from the groin injury, Billups is averaging 26.3 points and Denver is 5-1.
The Nuggets needed every bit because Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer, struggled with his shot all night. Anthony went just 7 of 22 from the floor and only had three points in overtime.
“He’s been big for us,” Anthony said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve had some injury problems that threw us out of sync. Having everyone back, we’re starting to get going.”
Anthony scored 23 points, including two clinching free throws with 12.5 seconds left to help the Nuggets (27-14) win for just the second time in nine road games.
Monta Ellis had 39 points and 10 assists, while Corey Maggette added 33 points and nine rebounds for Golden State (12-28), which lost for the fourth time in five games.
“They’re full strength, we were not and we’re still in these kind of games,” Golden State’s Stephen Curry said. “It’s tough, you give all that effort … and you have it in your hands.”
The Nuggets have been struggling away from the Pepsi Center and have had even more trouble with some of the NBA’s weaker teams. Denver went into the game just 11-8 against teams with a .500 record or lower, a stat that was on the verge of getting worse before Billups took control in overtime.
Denver, which is just 9-11 on the road this season, maintained its two-game lead over Portland in the Northwest Division.
“We’ve been losing these games,” Denver coach George Karl said. “The truth of the matter is we still find mistakes and ways that hurt ourselves, but tonight we figured out enough to win it.”
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation but came up short. Anthony’s driving layup attempt was blocked with 3.9 seconds left before Anthony Tolliver, one of three NBA Development League call-ups on Golden State’s roster, missed a long jumper at the buzzer. Tolliver also missed a 3-pointer late in the final seconds of overtime.
That Golden State made it close had to surprise coach Don Nelson, whose patchwork lineup nearly needed revamping yet again after Ellis pulled out of the afternoon shootaround complaining of soreness in his left ankle.
Ellis, who injured the same ankle in an offseason mo-ped accident in 2008 one month after signing a $66 million six-year contract, then didn’t come out for pregame warmups until seven minutes before the game and took only a handful of shots before lying on the floor and stretching.
Ellis leads the NBA in complete games (9) and was averaging a league-high 42.2 minutes before playing all 53 against Denver, but denied the heavy workload affected his ankle.
“It’s just that I have a plate in my ankle and when it rains my ankle throbs,” Ellis said. “So it wasn’t nothing like I’ve been playing on it too much and it was hurting. It was just because of the weather.”
NOTES: Ellis had eight or more assists for the third straight game, the first time he’s done that in his four-year NBA career. … Maggette has scored at least 32 points in each of his last three games. … The Warriors signed Cartier Martin to a second 10-day contract earlier in the day.