DENVER (AP) — Thanks to Corey Brewer, the Denver Nuggets' long home winning streak is intact. Their dreams of a deep playoff run, however, took a hit when Danilo Gallinari blew out his left knee.
"There's a sadness to the win," Denver coach George Karl said after the Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks 95-94 on Thursday night.
Their 19th straight win at home was a bittersweet one amid fears that Gallinari tore his ACL.
Brewer replaced Gallinari in the lineup late in the first half and scored a game-high 23 points. He added three big plays in the final 19 seconds that helped Denver improve to 34-3 at home.
First, Brewer stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki with Denver trailing 94-93. Then, he grabbed the offensive rebound when Kenneth Faried missed his second straight free throw with 9 seconds left.
After Andre Iguodala sliced to the basket for a nifty left-handed layup with 2.8 seconds on the clock to put Denver ahead in a game that Dallas dominated, Brewer deflected Anthony Morrow's potential game-winner at the buzzer.
"Whatever it takes to win," Brewer said. "Make a play, get a steal or get a rebound."
Gallinari is scheduled for an MRI on Friday, but if his screams of pain, anguished face and the blank looks of his teammates after he went down with 4:27 left in the first half are any indication, the Nuggets will head into the playoffs without him.
"You never want to see anybody go down but especially a guy like Gallo that's so important to us," Brewer said. "So, it's tough. But we have to fight through it. It's going to be tough on us, but we've got to just keep playing hard."
Gallinari, who had nine points before getting hurt, is the Nuggets' second-leading scorer at 16.3 points per game. Their top scorer, Ty Lawson (16.7) is out indefinitely with a tear in his bruised right heel.
Gallinari's left knee buckled inward as he drove past Dirk Nowitzki and Darren Collison to the basket for a layup. He gave up the ball, grabbed his knee and hopped out of bounds, where he sat down, screaming in pain as Collison scored at the other end for Dallas.
Gallinari was helped off the court by reserves Timofey Mozgov and Quincy Miller. After a few halting steps, he was seated in a wheelchair and whisked away.
That the Nuggets were able to pull off the win without their two best players was testament to their depth and versatility. They hadn't won a game while shooting this poorly — 39 percent — since 2008.
"Winning (while) playing poorly against a good team is usually a good sign," Karl said. "So, it's a win. It doesn't feel as exuberant as if Gallo wouldn't have gotten hurt, but I'm proud of the guys staying with it. We've just go to figure things out and don't feel sorry for ourselves, just hang in there and continue to figure out how our team fits.
"We're versatile, we're deep. And I told all the guys at the end of the bench that you never know when the opportunity's going to come and I think now there will probably be some opportunities for some guys at the end of the bench."