Eric Gordon returns, New Orleans Hornets beat Denver Nuggets, 94-92
Sean Gardner, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Eric Gordon scored 15 points in his first action in three months, capping the performance with two free throws in the final seconds to lift the New Orleans Hornets to a 94-92 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Trevor Ariza scored 15 points, and Chris Kaman added 14 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans. The Hornets had six players score in double figures, including all five starters.
Ty Lawson scored 22 points for Denver, which tied it at 92 on Al Harrington's 3 from the corner with 10 seconds left, only to see Gordon bait Arron Afflalo into a foul on an up-fake near the lane with 2 seconds left. Gordon was returning from a right knee bruise that required arthroscopic surgery.
Afflalo finished with 15 points and a career-high seven assists, and Harrington scored 14 points.
New Orleans surged into the lead, never to trail again, when Kaman hit a jumper and Smith scored twice during a 6-0 run to open the second half.
Soon after, Gordon, who had missed his first four field goals, hit a 3 and added a free throw to give New Orleans a 55-48 lead.
Denver pulled as close as 59-58 on Harrington's fast-break layup after a New Orleans turnover, but the Hornets wound up making nine of their first 11 shots in the third quarter, including a driving layup and 3 in succession by Gordon that made it 68-59.
The Hornets matched their largest lead when Gordon's free throw made it 86-75 with 6:51 to go, but New Orleans went into a shooting slump, missing nine of its last 11 shots and nearly losing the lead.
Afflalo started Denver's comeback when he scored inside as he was fouled for a three-point play. Kenneth Faried then dunked and followed that with a three-point play of his own on a reverse layup as he was fouled.
Denver late closed to 89-87 on Jordan Hamilton's reverse layup with 3:06 left before New Orleans got a little breathing room on Ariza's free throw and Kaman's putback of Gordon's miss to make it 92-87 and set up the tense finish.
The Nuggets had to play most of the fourth quarter without Andre Miller, who was ejected when he was called for a flagrant-2 foul on Carl Landry. Miller threw a forearm into Landry's ribs under the basket as the New Orleans forward tried to finish a fast break.
Landry stayed down on the baseline receiving treatement for several minutes but remained in the game while officials confirmed the call on video review.
Landry finished with 12 points, Greivis Vasquez had 11 points and 10 assists, and Jason Smith added 10 points to go with a steal on the final play of the game, preventing Denver from getting off a final shot for the tie or win.
Faried had 13 points for the Nuggets.
After making only two of their first 16 shots and falling behind by 11 in the first quarter, the Nuggets shot 17 of 24 for the rest of the first half.
Lawson scored twice and Afflalo hit a 3 as Denver used an 11-0 run to tie it at 18 late in the first quarter.
The Nuggets wound up taking their first lead when Lawson converted a three-point play after hitting a jumper while being fouled to make it 36-33.
Denver never led by more than 3 points, however, and New Orleans briefly went back in front when Kaman's dunk and inside basket made it 45-44.
The Nuggets regained the lead on Lawson's free throws, taking a 46-45 lead into halftime.
Notes: With Gordon's return to action, the Hornets had their NBA-high 22nd starting lineup of the season. ... Denver closed out its seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record. ... The Hornets scratched point guard Jarrett Jack with a sore right ankle and was replaced in the starting lineup by Vasquez. Denver's Wilson Chandler missed his second straight game with a strained left groin and Corey Brewer started for him. ... The meeting was the fourth and final one this season between New Orleans and Denver. Each team won twice in the series. ... Actors Leondardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, sitting in courtside seats, were among the announced attendance of 15,020.
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