DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets played most of the game disinterested in anyone or anything that wasn't standing within a step of the 3-point line.
Odd, then, that they won it with a backboard-shaking dunk from a big guy, Kenyon Martin, who spent most of Friday night acting as though he was one of Denver's many shooting guards.
Denver trailed by as many as 17 in the middle of the third quarter, needed a season-high 15 3-pointers to stay within striking range, then won a game it probably should have lost thanks to a rare show of aggression at the end.
"Nah, I'm going to take it to the basket," Martin said, when asked if he felt like taking another jumper when he received the pass from Billups. "The lane was there, their big man just stood under the basket."
J.R. Smith made seven 3s for the Nuggets and finished with a team-high 27 points. Billups had 26 points and 10 assists.
On the possession after Martin's dunk gave Denver a 102-101 lead, Andre Iguodala of the 76ers got called for traveling.
Then, Andre Miller got hit with a technical foul with 2.9 seconds left. Billups made the free throw, then Chucky Atkins made two more to push the lead to four, seal Philly's third straight loss -- and offer another sobering dose of how hard it is for mediocre teams to win on the road in the NBA.
Iguodala led Philly with 24 points, but didn't score after finishing a three-point play to give the Sixers an 88-76 lead with 8:20 left.
"The thought that comes to my mind is, bad teams lose games they're supposed to win, and good teams win games they're supposed to lose," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Miller, used as trade fodder two seasons ago when the Nuggets dealt for Allen Iverson, had 19 points and eight assists for the Sixers. He claimed he was only trying to delay Atkins' free throws when he got slapped with the 'T.'
"I didn't do nothing or say nothing," Miller said.
Trailing by 12 early in the fourth, the Nuggets went on a 20-7 run to grab the lead with 2:29 left and it was almost exclusively from behind the 3-point line. Playing without Carmelo Anthony (elbow) for the third straight game, the Nuggets went 12 straight minutes in the third and fourth quarters without making anything from the field but 3s.
Smith's 3-pointer with 2:29 left gave Denver a 96-95 lead, its first since the first half.
But the Nuggets won by going hard to the bucket.
Martin took a bounce pass from Billups at the top of the key and, uncovered, drove hard to the hoop where he dunked over Samuel Dalembert for the go-ahead points.
Karl said he wasn't surprised to see Martin so open at the top of the key, especially considering the way the Nuggets had been focusing on 3-pointers all night.
"I thought Kenyon made a great read and it's a basic play," Karl said. "Shooter's in a corner, big guys have the middle."
Philly made this close by doing lots of little things right -- rebounding, taking the ball to the hoop, getting to the free throw line -- while the Nuggets seemed content to fire away from long range. They also had a season high 24 turnovers.
With the Nuggets trailing by one with a minute left, Smith forced a tough 3 over Miller and missed, and it looked as though Philadelphia might steal a win on this, the first of a five-game Western road swing in which the combined record of the opponents is 79-65.
But Williams missed a running jumper in the lane on the next possession and Billups responded with a 16-footer for a 100-99 lead with 27 seconds left to set up the finish.
"We played solid the whole game. We did everything we were supposed to do. Force turnovers, we took advantage of their turnovers, got to the free-throw line," Miller said.
Wasn't enough, though.
Martin finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for Denver. His go-ahead score was his third basket in the paint; he also made jumpers of 18, 20 and 21 feet.
The Sixers shot 5-for-12 from 3-point range after missing all 19 attempts in their last two games. ... Philly played another game without Elton Brand, who is out with a dislocated shoulder. ... Anthony said he expects to be back Sunday, when the Nuggets start a four-game road trip in New York.
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