DENVER — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggled to make free throws, but with the game on the line, the Charlotte Bobcats forward made the biggest defensive play of the night.
Kidd-Gilchrist blocked Denver center Timofey Mozgov’s tying attempt with 2.4 seconds left. and the Bobcats held on to beat the short-handed Nuggets 101-98 Wednesday night.
Center Al Jefferson had 35 points and 11 rebounds, and guards Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions added 16 apiece for the Bobcats, who won in Denver for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Jefferson has four 30-point games in January despite not playing at 100 percent because of an injured right ankle that will likely require offseason surgery.
“It’s all about staying healthy. I am 85 or 90 percent right now,” he said. “If I were 100 percent, I could be very effective.”
Denver guard Randy Foye scored a season-high 33 points, and guard Evan Fournier tied his career high with 19 points for the Nuggets. Mozgov had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Denver (22-22), which played with a thinned backcourt.
The Nuggets were already without guard Ty Lawson, who suffered a left rotator cuff strain Sunday against the Sacramento Kings, and guard Nate Robinson suffered a sprained left knee early in Wednesday’s game. That left Denver without a true point guard after it started the season with three.
Robinson will undergo an MRI exam Thursday.
“With our numbers being down, (forwards) Jordan Hamilton and Quincy Miller are going to have to be ready to play,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Tonight they had an opportunity but didn’t get it done.”
Jefferson got it done, providing a chunk of the offense for the Bobcats, but Kidd-Gilchrist came up with the key stop in the waning seconds.
Charlotte (20-27) led 100-98 when Fournier drove the lane and put up a leaning jumper. Mozgov got the rebound, but the 6-foot-7 Kidd-Gilchrist came from behind to strip the 7-footer.
“It was a weird play at the end. The ball got deflected in some kind of way,” Jefferson said. “Mozgov got the ball and had a clean shot at a layup, but MKG did a heck of a job to block it.”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s block atoned for his 4-for-10 performance at the foul line. His 10 attempts nearly matched the Nuggets’ output.
Charlotte finished 30-for-42 at the line, while Denver went 11-for-13.
“We fouled a lot. We gave them the game,” Foye said. “We got stops, they got offensive rebounds and we fouled them. We made some bonehead plays fouling them when they were in the bonus.”
Despite the free-throw discrepancy, the Nuggets had a chance to tie it before the buzzer.
Sending the game into overtime might have been a moral victory minus Lawson and Robinson. Without them, Foye and Fournier became the primary ball-handlers, and they responded with their best games of the season, but it wasn’t enough.
“Ty and Nate, they push the ball and do so many different things,” Foye said. “Evan hadn’t been in that situation, so I just tried to mimic some of the things Ty does, being real aggressive, taking it to the basket and making plays for everybody.”
The Nuggets’ offense suffered, and Denver was held below 100 points for the first time in 14 games.
Still, the Nuggets led by five in the fourth quarter before the Bobcats rallied.
The game was tied at 95 when Kidd-Gilchrist hit one free throw. Denver forward Wilson Chandler missed a layup, and Jefferson’s fall-away jumper with 23 seconds left gave the Bobcats a 98-95 lead.
Foye stepped out of bounds on a 3-point attempt, and after Kidd-Gilchrist made one of two free throws, Denver forward Darrell Arthur hit a corner 3-pointer to make it 99-98.
Henderson sank one free throw, giving the Nuggets a chance to tie before Kidd-Gilchrist came up big.
“We had opportunities. Timo got the rebound, had a chance to put it up and tie it, and they blocked the shot,” Shaw said.
Early on, it looked as if the Bobcats were going to run away from Denver. Charlotte hit eight of its first 11 shots and built a 14-point lead in the first on the strength of Jefferson’s 10 points.
Foye scored 15 of his 20 first-half points in the second quarter, and Mozgov asserted himself inside as the Nuggets got their deficit down to single digits. Arthur’s foul-line jumper cut Charlotte’s lead to 53-52 at halftime.
Foye already had a season-high 26 at the end of the third quarter, helping the Nuggets tie it at 75-75 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Nuggets PG Ty Lawson (left rotator cuff strain) is considered day-to-day. Coach Brian Shaw said Lawson, who was injured in Sunday’s win, was improving but not enough to play Wednesday. … Charlotte G Kemba Walker (left ankle sprain) missed his fifth consecutive game, but he could be back for Friday’s game against the Lakers. “He’ll practice in L.A.,” coach Steve Clifford said. “If he can get through practice, he could play Friday or Saturday.” … Denver F Darrell Arthur returned after missing seven games with a left hip strain. He scored seven points in 17 minutes. … Bobcats C Al Jefferson scored 20 or more points for the 10th consecutive game. It is the second-longest streak in franchise history.
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