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Billups leads Clippers to 109-105 win over Nuggets

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 8:58 p.m. MST

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups (1) drives past Denver Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo (6) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012.

Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

DENVER — Chauncey Billups' homecoming couldn't have gone better. He scored a season-high 32 points and drew a crucial foul in the waning seconds to help seal the Los Angeles Clippers' 109-105 victory that snapped the Denver Nuggets' six-game winning streak Sunday night.

It was Billups' first game at the Pepsi Center since the Nuggets included him in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade nearly a year ago.

Billups received a rousing ovation during introductions, and some highlights of his days with the Nuggets were shown on the overhead scoreboards. The Denver native was enthusiastically introduced as "still the King of Park Hill."

Those cheers turned to groans when Billups scored a dozen points in the first quarter and swished a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter, reminding the Nuggets and their fans of what they'd lost.

He saved his best play for the fourth quarter.

The only visitor who got a louder ovation was Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, sitting courtside.

The Nuggets opened a 10-point lead early in the fourth but the Clippers used a 10-0 run to tie it at 87 with 8½ minutes to go and it was close the rest of the way.

Just when the Nuggets started to pull away, going up five, Billups took over as he had so many times in this building.

His sixth 3-pointer tied it at 99, and his three-point play finished off an 8-0 spurt gave the Clippers a 102-99 lead with 2:37 left.

The Nuggets regained the lead 105-104 on Nene's dunk with 47 seconds remaining after Andre Miller's steal of Chris Paul's poor pass. But Paul's two free throws gave Los Angeles the lead for good with 36 seconds left.

DeAndre Jordan hit one of two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Clippers a 107-105 lead, and after a timeout, Nene, who led the Nuggets with 18 points, pushed off against Billups, drawing the offensive foul with 18 seconds remaining.

Paul sank two free throws to push the Clippers' cushion to 109-105 with 17 seconds left, and the Nuggets weren't able to recover.

Paul finished with 25 points, and Blake Griffin added 17.

Billups had 15 points at the half and really got hot in the third quarter, sinking three straight 3-pointers, including one with Rudy Fernandez all over him that capped a stretch of five straight 3s for the Clippers, the other two coming from Paul.

The Nuggets took an 83-77 lead into the fourth quarter after Fernandez's astonishing tip-in at the third-quarter buzzer. Corey Brewer's desperation heave was off-target and Fernandez cut through the lane and with his left hand tipped the ball off the glass and through the hoop as the buzzer sounded and the backboard lit up.

Billups spent 2½ years in his second stint with the Nuggets, instantly turned a middling Denver team into a contender when he came over from Detroit for Allen Iverson in 2008. He guided the Nuggets to a franchise-best 54 wins and the Western Conference finals that year.

"I've told the story that if we don't make the Chauncey trade, I don't think I'm here right now," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We were playing very ordinary basketball. Then we made the trade and we went from ordinary to good pretty quick. I remember when (former Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien) called and said the trade was done, I was downstairs in my house and I actually think I got down on my knees and thanked God."

Conversely, Karl nearly cried 11 months ago when Billups, who starred at the University of Colorado, got caught up in Anthony's trade demand and was included in the 13-player, three-way deal on Feb. 22, 2011, that sent him to New York.

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