DALLAS - Antoine Wright had a simple objective. In a game with 61 fouls already called, he was trying to commit another.
Wright bumped Carmelo Anthony once, hard enough to knock him off stride. But not enough for a foul call.
So he jostled Anthony again. Still no call — and now Wright was out of position, leaving Anthony a clear look at the basket. His 3-pointer went right through with a second left, giving the Denver Nuggets a 106-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, and a 3-0 series lead that has been insurmountable in NBA history.
“I have hit a lot of big shots in my short career, but never in a situation like this,” Anthony said. “It was a thin line between 2-1 and 3-0.”
It’s even thinner than he thinks. About two hours after the game, the league office announced that Wright was right. In a brief statement, NBA president Joel Litvin said, “At the end of the Dallas-Denver game this evening, the officials missed an intentional foul committed by Antoine Wright on Carmelo Anthony, just prior to Anthony’s 3-point basket.”
The Nuggets can consider themselves lucky to be close enough to get saved by a controversial finish.
They missed 15 of their first 17 shots and made only two longer than 5 feet the entire first half. They finished with as many fouls as field goals and their previously dominant center tandem of Nene and Chris Andersen struggled, Nene missing his first eight shots and “Birdman” fouling out in only 11 minutes.
Yet Denver never trailed by more than six. The Mavericks’ inability to pull away — take your pick when; the Nuggets never really strung together many baskets — was as damaging as the non-call against Wright.
“The game didn’t come down to that last play,” Dallas guard Jason Kidd said. “You’ve got to make plays down the stretch, and we just didn’t do that.”
The Mavericks led 105-101 with 31 seconds left, then saw Anthony zip in for a quick dunk. Dirk Nowitzki missed a 13-footer with about 8 seconds left and missed a high-arching shot from the corner at the buzzer.
“This is about as tough of a loss as I’ve been a part of in my 11 years,” said Nowitzki, who overcame a difficult week off the court and a third-quarter leg bruise to score 33 points and grab 16 rebounds. “That’s a game we’ve got to have.”
During the timeout before Anthony’s winning shot, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle reminded his players they had a foul to give and told them to use it. Wright’s attempt was good enough for the league office, but not for the crew. The official closest to the play was Mark Wunderlich, the same official who did not call a foul on Los Angeles’ Derek Fisher at the end of Game 4 of last year’s Western Conference finals.
“What do you want me to do ... take him out and then I get a flagrant two late in the game?” Wright said. “I made a play on the ball like I was told in the huddle and the call wasn’t made.”
Nuggets coach George Karl thought it was a great non-call.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“It seemed like he fumbled the ball,” Karl said.
When time ran out, the crowd fell silent, the Nuggets began to celebrate and the Mavericks began to gripe.
Josh Howard was among several clusters of Dallas players who appeared to be exchanging words with Denver players and staff. Owner Mark Cuban brushed by a cameraman on his way to the scene, then blew off steam behind the scorer’s table, his face reddening.
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