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NEW YORK — Nuggets coach Michael Malone had been satisfied with the defense
lately. It was, at the very least, trending up in, say, the last 17 games. The Nuggets won nine of those.
But then Monday happened.
On the Nuggets' third night in the Big Apple, defense took the night off. Brooklyn, a team that ranked 28th in scoring, played the part of a team much better than that. Much better. So much better that all the Nuggets could really rely on was their offense to see them through.
It almost did. Almost.
Kenneth Faried's running layup with 1.3 seconds was bested by Joe Johnson, who hit a bank-shot 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Brooklyn to a 105-104 victory over the Nuggets in a thriller at the Barclays Center.
The shot was reviewed, as per protocol, but everyone already knew the outcome.
It was a stinging loss for the Nuggets, who could only stand in disbelief at what transpired.
They rallied from as many as 16 points down to make it a game. The fourth quarter ended being a back-and-forth, shot-for-shot affair.
The Nets led 98-97 with 4:04 to play when the two teams began trading buckets. When Brook Lopez made 1-of-2 free throws with 2:24 to play, the game was tied at 100. Forward Danilo Gallinari hit a driving layup to put the Nuggets back on top briefly, but the Nets countered with another Lopez layup.
Faried's layup was up next, and it seemed that it would be enough to win. For Faried, it was the capper of one of his best nights this season. He finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, continuing a streak of games of active, effective play.
But Johnson, and the Nets, had the last laugh.
Johnson nailed the shot over Gallinari's outstretched arms. The Barclays Center went crazy. And the Nuggets went back to the locker room with a near miss.
Gallinari led the Nuggets with 24 points. Thaddeus Young led the Nets with 20 points and seven rebounds. Johnson had been having an average night until his last-second shot made it memorable.
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