Chris Schneider/Associated Press
Chris Schneider/Associated Press
Arron Afflalo hit three free throws with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, Ty Lawson made a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in overtime, and the Denver Nuggets rallied for a 119-116 victory over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
Afflalo finished with a career-high 32 points for the Nuggets, who improved to 4-0 since the All-Star break.
Lawson came up with the clutch basket for the second consecutive night, finishing with 16 points and 13 assists.
Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans each had 27 points for the Kings, who dropped their fourth in a row on the day they announced they had extended the contract of coach Keith Smart through the 2012-13 season.
Thornton also had the foul on Afflalo in the closing seconds that allowed the Nuggets to get the game into overtime and pull out an improbable win.
The Kings trailed by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, only to storm back and take a 96-93 lead on a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia with 4:23 remaining.
From there, it was an exchange of 3-pointers between the teams, as Lawson hit one to tie it up, only to have Thornton answer right back. Evans gave the Kings some breathing room with a short jumper, extending the lead to 103-98 with 1:16 remaining.
The cushion didn’t last.
Afflalo hit a 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game.
After Isaiah Thomas hit two free throws to extend the lead to 108-105, the Nuggets held the ball for one final shot.
Just before the buzzer sounded, Afflalo launched a deep 3-point attempt, with Thornton grazing his arm. Afflalo drained the first two free throws and then had to wait patiently after the Kings called timeout.
He returned to the line, where he made the final one to tie the score at 108.
Jimmer Fredette’s desperation heave was offline, and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, the Kings jumped out to an early lead, but the Nuggets quickly responded.
Lawson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to give the Nuggets the lead. Garcia’s final shot fell short.
Once a banged-up bunch, the Nuggets steadily are returning to health. Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari was back after missing 13 games with a left ankle sprain. So was Brazilian center Nenę, who sat out 10 games with a calf strain.
Not surprisingly, Gallinari and Nenę both showed some early rust from their long layoffs.
Gallinari didn’t hit his first basket until swishing a 3-pointer with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter. He had just four points on the evening.
Nenę finished with six points in just over 15 minutes.
When Gallinari hobbled off the court on Feb. 6, it appeared as if he might be sidelined for quite some time after tests revealed a chip fracture in his left foot. But further examinations later showed the fracture wasn’t caused by his stumble and actually may have occurred before he joined the NBA in 2008.
The versatile Italian forward proved to be a fast healer, returning nearly to the day the team had predicted.
The Nuggets were 6-7 without Gallinari, one of the players they’re counting on to deliver big shots at crunch time.
But with the game on the line the healing Gallinari was on the bench, not the floor.
Even with the return of Gallinari and Nenę, the Nuggets are far from full strength. They were missing swingman Rudy Fernandez (back) and center Kosta Koufos (left knee).
However, Timofey Mozgov played Monday despite an ailing left ankle. He had eight early points before appearing to hurt his ankle again. Mozgov didn’t play in the second half.
The Nuggets trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, only to go on an 8-0 run to close out the half and tie the game at 53.