Danilo Gallinari's 19, key defensive stop carry Nuggets over Hawks

DENVER -- Danilo Gallinari picked a good time to have a breakout game.

Gallinari had 19 points, including a key 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and then made a big defensive play in the final seconds of overtime as the Denver Nuggets beat the Atlanta Hawks 118-117 on Tuesday night.

It was Gallinari's best game since returning from a monthlong absence due to a severely sprained left ankle.

"I'm feeling better with my ankle and my legs," he said. "You sit out more than a month you're legs are not the same. It's going to take a while but I'm feeling better."

Nene scored 22 points, Ty Lawson had 21 points and seven assists for the Nuggets, who have escaped with overtime wins twice in the first five games of their nine-game homestand.

"Atlanta had their moments, we had our moments. There were so many twists to that game," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We won it, they won it, we won it, they won it, we won it. Ping pong back and forth. Way too offensive minded for me."

Joe Johnson scored a season-high 34 points and Josh Smith also had a season-high with 33 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawks, who had a chance to win it at the buzzer.

Trailing by one with 3.5 seconds left, Atlanta got the ball to Zaza Pachulia at the foul line. He drove the open lane before Gallinari rotated over to disrupt the play, and Pachulia missed a layup off the glass with 2.2 seconds left and Denver grabbed the rebound.

"There wasn't anything wrong with our execution. We ran it just like it was designed," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "It was the best executed play we ran all night."

Johnson took control in overtime after Smith fouled out, scoring seven straight points to give Atlanta a 117-112 lead. However, Denver came back and took a one-point lead on two free throws by Nene with 26 seconds left.

"I looked like Ray Allen right there," he said.

Without Smith in the game the Nuggets blanketed Johnson on the final play. He found Pachulia open and fed him.

"I just missed it," Pachulia said.

Before the game Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson tried to dispel trade rumors surrounding Smith, saying "the likelihood of us trading Josh at the trade deadline is as close to zero as you can get."

Smith shrugged off the rumors after the game.

"The talk was talk. Nothing but rumors. All rumors," he said. "Unless you heard it coming from my mouth, you knew it was a rumor. I was always going to be a part of this program."

Smith's play wasn't impacted by the rumors or Thursday's trade deadline, especially in the fourth when he scored 15 points and put the Hawks ahead 104-102 with 29 seconds left.

Lawson drove the lane but his layup went off the side of the rim with 15 seconds left. An Atlanta turnover with 9 seconds left gave Denver another chance, and Gallinari made a 3-pointer as he fell out of bounds to give Denver a 105-104 lead with 3.9 seconds left.

"I was feeling pretty good," Gallinari said. "When I went up my lift felt pretty good, it was a tough shot and I made it."

Hinrich was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1.1 seconds left to send it to overtime. Hinrich finished with a season-high 22 points.

"That was disturbing," he said. "I made the harder one, the first one, and I couldn't make the last one at the end of the game."

Atlanta's outside shooting kept the game close for most of the first half. Johnson had 15 points and Smith scored 13 for the Hawks, who hit 8 of 14 from behind the 3-point line before intermission.

The Nuggets countered with a balanced scoring attack that had four players in double digits at the break.

Lawson led the way with 12, including two 3s in the final 62 seconds of the first half to help the Nuggets extend the lead to 64-55.

Game notes
Smith's career high is 38 set Nov. 17, 2007, vs. Milwaukee. ... Al Harrington scored 19 points off the bench for Denver. ... Hawks G Willie Green (back spasms/right hamstring) did not play and F Ivan Johnson was not with the team due to personal reasons. ... Nuggets F Kosta Koufos was dressed but did not play. He has missed six games with a strained left knee.

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