Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
DENVER (AP) — Will Barton had an impressive one-handed dunk. He also scored 23 points, including two game-sealing free throws.
His most memorable moment, though, was a sneaker he tossed off the court that led to a late technical for delay.
The incident almost unlaced the Denver Nuggets as they nearly blew a big lead before holding off the Houston Rockets 114-108 on Monday night.
"That's how the game goes sometimes: Might have to make a 3-pointer — or throw somebody's shoe in the crowd," Barton said, grinning.
Houston's Trevor Ariza lost a sneaker with 4:53 remaining and his team trailing by 15. Barton picked it up and casually threw it off the court so as not to trip on it, leading to a technical for delay of game.
For some reason, that incident gave the Rockets some traction. They wound up cutting the deficit to 110-108 and had a chance to take the lead. But Jason Terry missed a 3-pointer with 15.9 seconds left and Barton wrapped up the win from the line as the Nuggets completed a three-game sweep of the Rockets in the season series.
"I've seen guys take that sneaker and throw it 15 rows into the stands," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Will just threw it off the field of play."
After the game, Barton said he chatted with Ariza about the incident.
"We're cool. No hard feelings," Barton said. "Stuff happens during the game, man."
James Harden finished with 24 points for the Rockets, including five of the team's season-high 18 3-pointers.
The Nuggets outscored the Rockets 62-36 in the paint and out-rebounded them by a 52-26 margin.
"That's astonishing," Malone said.
And demoralizing for Rockets fans.
"Our defensive level needs to be at a point where it doesn't matter who our opponent is, we should be able to get stops," Houston interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We didn't get the job done often enough."
Jameer Nelson started for rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who's out with a sprained right ankle. Nelson had 10 points and seven assists. Gary Harris added a career-high 21 points.
The jam of the night belonged to Barton. He blew past Ariza along the baseline in the second quarter and threw down a one-handed dunk over Donatas Motiejunas.
Asked if that was his best dunk ever, Barton said: "It's up there. But I've had some pretty nasty ones."
Once again, ex-Nuggets player Ty Lawson was booed when he stepped on the court.
When he returned to town last month, he was the starting point guard. This time, he entered off the bench — and yet was still greeted by boos.
Lawson spent six seasons with Denver, but trouble away from the court, including multiple drunken driving arrest, soured his reputation with the fans and led to him being traded to Houston over the summer. He's embraced a fresh start.
"A change of scenery is always good for everybody, to see what things are like on the other side," Lawson said.
LIKE FATHERS, LIKE SONS
Malone and Bickerstaff have a big thing in common — both followed in their father's footsteps.
Malone's father, Brendan, has coached more than 27 years in the NBA, while Bickerstaff's dad, Bernie, has served as a general manager and coach in the league, including a stint with the Nuggets in the 1990s.
"Our fathers have had a tremendous impact on us," Michael Malone said. "Half the things I say I remember my father saying to me 15 or 20 years ago."
Rockets: Center Clint Capela was a late scratch after battling a case of food poisoning most of the day. ... Terrence Jones suffered a laceration in his eye and didn't play much in the second half. "He wasn't an option to go down the stretch," Bickerstaff said.
Nuggets: Denver shot 68.2 percent in the first quarter and scored a season-high 36 points. ... Danilo Gallinari had 15 points and seven assists.
Rockets: At Sacramento on Tuesday night.
Nuggets: At Minnesota on Tuesday night.