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Wizards barely hold off Nuggets in OT

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DENVER — Paul Pierce kept the Washington Wizards in Sunday’s game in the third quarter. At the end of overtime, the veteran forward was thankful he didn’t cost his team a win.

Pierce scored nine of his 19 points in the third period, but his errant pass with 2.9 seconds left in OT nearly forced a second extra session.

Guard Ty Lawson got the steal but missed a tying jumper with 1.1 seconds left, and Washington held on to beat the Denver Nuggets 117-115.

“I tried to get it in quick, he stole the pass and that’s it,” Pierce said. “Thank you, thank you Ty Lawson.”

Forward Kris Humphries scored a season-high 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and guard John Wall had 19 points and 16 assists for the Wizards, who ended a two-game skid.

“Craziest game of the year,” Wall said.

Lawson returned to the lineup and finished with 31 points and 12 assists. He missed Friday’s loss to the Boston Celtics after he was arrested early that morning on suspicion of driving while impaired. Lawson was excused from the team that day but returned for practice Saturday.

He said it was good to get back on the court amid his personal troubles.

“A little bit,” he said. “Just have fun, get around my brothers and take my mind off things.”

He nearly ended Denver’s five-game skid in a wild finish.

With the Nuggets trailing by five, Denver forward Wilson Chandler (20 points and nine rebounds) hit a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left in overtime. Lawson then stole Pierce’s inbounds pass but missed a short jumper.

“The steal surprised me, so when I got it, I didn’t know what to do,” Lawson said. “I thought I had one second, so I rushed it a little bit.”

It was a welcome sight for the Wizards.

“I think he thought the time was running out and he shot a fadeaway,” Wall said. “I was like, ‘Thank you.’ I thought it was still going to go in because he was making just about everything he put up tonight.”

Humphries scored the first four points of overtime to spark a 6-0 Washington run. Denver got within a point twice on baskets by Lawson, but Wall’s driving layup with 40 seconds left made it 115-112.

Forward Darrell Arthur and guard Arron Afflalo missed 3-pointers for Denver, and Wall hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds left to make it a five-point game.

Lawson had 18 points through the first three quarters, and the rested Nuggets built an 82-74 lead late in the period.

Washington responded with a 13-2 run to take a three-point lead early in the fourth. A 21-foot jumper by guard Andre Miller gave the Wizards a 94-89 lead with 7:27 left.

“That third quarter, we had four turnovers in our first five possessions,” Wall said. “Paul got a little hot for us, and we didn’t fold.”

Lawson scored the next seven points for Denver as it went ahead 101-99 with 3:33 remaining.

“When he’s aggressive like that, it’s hard to stop him,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.

Humphries tied it with a putback at 2:42, and Arthur hit a jumper to give the Nuggets a 103-101 lead before a Humphries dunk tied it up with 1:10 remaining.

Lawson drained two free throws but Wizards forward Nene’s layup tied it with 39 seconds left. Washington had a chance to win it with the last shot in regulation, but Lawson stripped Wall.

Denver forward Kenneth Faried picked it up and was fouled going to the basket, but he missed both foul shots with 1.4 seconds left.

Faried blocked Pierce’s 22-footer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

“I’m happy as heck,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s tough to win in this league. We have to grateful, but we have to do better.”

NOTES: The Nuggets recalled G Erick Green from Fort Wayne of the NBA Development League on Sunday. Green was sent down Tuesday. … Wizards G Andre Miller played his second game in Denver since he was traded from the Nuggets last February. Miller was dealt after a disagreement on the bench with coach Brian Shaw led to him being away from the team for six weeks. … Both teams are in the midst of four games in five days. “You have back-to-backs in this league,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “This is part of our league.” … Nuggets C JaVale McGee (lower left leg strain) is getting closer to returning, but no date is set.