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 three-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 three-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 five 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’ 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 eight 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,” Nowitzki said.