Chauncey Billups sat and laughed, figuring the Denver Nuggets would celebrate soon enough. In the meantime, the Chicago Bulls were having their moment.
Billups hit the go-ahead free throw with six-10ths of a second left and Denver won in Chicago, 90-89, last night after a potential winning jumper by Brad Miller was overturned following a lengthy replay review.
“As soon as I saw the flight of the ball, I knew it was good,’’ Billups said. “Then, I was sitting and laughing. Not so much about the shot, but looking at their reaction. They were dancing and jumping around like they had just made the Sweet 16. The longer it took, the better I felt. It was a great ending.’’
And a nerve-racking one.
Billups was fouled by Kirk Hinrich on a drive and then intentionally missed the second free throw after making the first to break the tie, figuring the Bulls would need a “miraculous’’ shot.
He didn’t count on this: Joakim Noah grabbing the rebound with three-10ths of a second remaining, and the Bulls nearly pulling it off.
After a timeout, Miller caught the inbounds pass from Hinrich and, in one motion, buried a jumper from the top of the key. The crowd went wild. So did the Bulls, but it didn’t last.
After about a 10-minute review, the officials ruled he did not get the shot off in time, and the Nuggets snapped a two-game losing streak.
“I thought it was good when I first saw it,’’ Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “That is irrelevant. The refs have to make the call. My understanding - 0.3 is enough time to catch and shoot. But I guess the ball was on his fingertips, probably. The refs made the call after looking at it about 20 times.’’
Carmelo Anthony scored a season-low 20 points for Denver, Billups added 17, and Kenyon Martin had 15 points and 10 rebounds after missing a game with a bruised left fibula.
Derrick Rose led Chicago with 22 points, and Luol Deng scored 21. Noah had a career-high 21 rebounds for the Bulls, who had won three straight.
Heat 90, Wizards 76 - Dwyane Wade scored 41 points and host Miami remained in first place in the Southeast Division by holding off Washington.
It’s the second time Wade has reached 40 points this season, both against Washington; he scored 40 a week ago in the nation’s capital.
Mavericks 121, Rockets 103 - Jason Terry scored 24 points, Erick Dampier had 14 points and 20 rebounds, and host Dallas overcame an early 17-point deficit to beat Houston.
The Mavericks went on a 22-3 run that started late in the first half and helped them bounce back after a sluggish start.
Trail Blazers 93, Grizzlies 79 - Brandon Roy scored 20 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and visiting Portland won its third straight.
Steve Blake and Greg Oden had 14 points each for Portland.
Magic 93, Bobcats 81 - Dwight Howard had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Vince Carter scored 15 points in his return from a sprained ankle, and Orlando bounced back from an ugly loss to beat host Charlotte.
Two nights after losing by 28 points in Oklahoma City, the Magic built a big lead with the help of Carter, who had missed four of the past five games.
Kings 101, Thunder 98 - Jason Thompson had 21 points and 14 rebounds to help host Sacramento beat Oklahoma City for its first three-game winning streak in more than a year.
Tyreke Evans had 20 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for the Kings, who made 31 of 36 free throws. Andres Nocioni scored 16 points, and both Beno Udrih and Spencer Hawes had 12.