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Brunson's 3 salts it away for L.A.

DENVER (AP) -- The shots kept clanging off the rim in the third
quarter, the chances of winning seemingly bouncing away with each
miss.

But what surely would have led to a loss for the Los Angeles
Clippers in the past was merely shrugged off this time. Maybe they
really are getting better.

Corey Maggette had 33 points and 11 rebounds, and Rick Brunson
hit a key 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to lift the Clippers
through some wild momentum swings to a 102-98 victory over the
Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

The Clippers got off to a great start, then let the Nuggets back
in it with a miserable third quarter. Then something strange
happened: The Clippers kept their composure.

Crashing in for offensive rebounds, hitting key shots and
stifling the Nuggets with a zone defense, Los Angeles (15-15)
pulled out its third win in four games after a 1-7 stretch,
reaching .500 this late in the season for just the fourth time in
21 years.

Not bad for a team, long ridiculed for its ineptitude, that got
the job done without three key players -- Marko Jaric, Kerry Kittles
and Shaun Livingston.

"This is amazing," said Brunson, who had 18 points and eight
rebounds. "We had the big lead in the first half, but in the NBA
you know everybody makes runs. We kept our composure and fought it
out at the end."

The Nuggets did their best without injured center Marcus Camby
(back) and guard Greg Buckner (groin) for the second straight game,
turning what appeared to be a rout in the first half into a close
game.

Nene had 20 points and 13 rebounds with Kenyon Martin in foul
trouble most of the game, and Carmelo Anthony had 21 points, though
he was just 6-for-21 from the field. Andre Miller added 17 points,
but he spent most of the fourth quarter watching from the bench.

What hurt the Nuggets was rebounding. Los Angeles had a 49-34
advantage and had three on the offensive glass in the final 4Ā½
minutes, including one to set up Brunson's crowd-quieting
3-pointer. Denver has lost 10 of 12 and has been only marginally
better since Jeff Bzdelik was fired last week, going 1-2 under
interim coach Michael Cooper.

"It was effort," Anthony said. "Our offensive rebounding
wasn't there tonight and that is something that we need to do
better, is effort."

Despite a miserable first half, Denver was still within 60-50
thanks in part to Miller's buzzer-beating 3-pointer from three
steps inside halfcourt. The Nuggets finally got the lead -- their
first of the game -- with 2:42 left in the third quarter, going up
70-69 on Anthony's two free throws.

The Nuggets kept it close until the Clippers came up with the
key plays down the stretch.

Switching to a zone to keep Anthony from getting to the rim, Los
Angeles forced Denver to miss 8-of-9 shots late in the fourth
quarter.

Mikki Moore put Los Angeles up 93-91 with a jump hook with 87
seconds left, then Brand swooped in to snare an offensive rebound
with 40 seconds left. The Clippers stayed steady and worked the
ball around the perimeter to Brunson, who calmly knocked down the
3-pointer from the corner.

"I think some of our guys got fatigued, got run down, but down
the stretch we executed well," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.
"Rick Brunson hit some big shots."

Game notes
The Nuggets raised more than $14,000 from fans and Kroenke
Enterprises employees Friday night for tsunami relief in South
Asia. ... Brunson had some fun with scouts sitting along the
baseline in the third quarter, yelling out "That was double-drag
down" after a whistle.