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Diop thwarts 'Melo layup to seal win

DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki had swished jumper after jumper to
carry the Dallas Mavericks from 19 points down midway through the
third quarter to a slim lead with time running out.

So when Carmelo Anthony drove past him to try and score the
winning basket for the Denver Nuggets, Nowitzki did the only thing
left to do -- hope someone was there to help.

DeSagana Diop was, swatting away Anthony's layup attempt with
2.9 seconds left and preserving an 83-80 victory for the Mavericks
on Tuesday night.

"I didn't see (Diop). He came out of nowhere," Nowitzki said.
"He saved the game for us."

Diop set career highs with 16 rebounds and six blocks, while
Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points and Marquise Daniels added
a season-high 17. No other Mavs were in double figures, part of the
reason they needed the big rally.

Nowitzki scored 17 points after the Nuggets' lead peaked at
64-45 midway through the third quarter. He had seven straight early
in the fourth, putting Dallas ahead on a 3-pointer and stretching
the lead to five with a breakaway layup soon after.

The Mavs never trailed again, but the Nuggets had plenty of
chances. They missed their final seven shots, including Anthony's
failed drive and a long 3-pointer by DerMarr Johnson at the buzzer
that was partially blocked by Dallas' Devin Harris, in falling to
0-4 on the road this season.

"We celebrated a little too early," Denver coach George Karl
said. "We became happy in the third quarter."

Karl wasn't pleased with Anthony taking such a tough shot.
Anthony's stance was that he was trying to either hit the basket or
draw a foul.

"He's not going to get that call because he had three guys
covering him," Karl said. "On the road, you're not going to get
many friendly calls."

Anthony remembers Nowitzki and Diop being around him.

"I don't know what happened after that," he said. "It could
have went both ways. Bottom line, I missed the shot."

Diop was in the right place at the right time because he was
counting on Anthony going to the basket.

"I knew he was not going to pass it," Diop said. "When he
gets that far under, he's going to shoot every time."

Anthony scored a season-high 24 points and Andre Miller added
17. Marcus Camby had 11 points and nine rebounds in his first game
since being named Western Conference player of the week, and
reserve Eduardo Najera had six points and 10 rebounds.

Kenyon Martin returned to the lineup after missing the previous
game to rest his sore left knee, but lasted only eight minutes. The
Dallas native had three rebounds and two points, going 1-for-4 with
a putback dunk attempt among his misses.

The Mavs needed a big game from backup center Diop because
starter Erick Dampier was scoreless in 11 minutes. He didn't even
take a shot or grab a rebound. His stat line showed four fouls and
four turnovers, including a pair of 3-second violations.

Diop responded with the steady play he's showed since signing as
a free agent this summer from Cleveland, where he never lived up to
the expectations of a top-10 draft pick. Losing about 60 pounds has
been a major factor.

"This is the most fun I've ever had in the league," he said.
"Being on the floor when the game's on the line is great."

This was only the second home game for Dallas after five on the
road. The schedule evens out quickly, though, as this opened a
four-game homestand.

The Mavs didn't seem comfortable on their own court at first,
with 16 turnovers and 17 field goals at one point. They gave up a
buzzer-beater that cost them the lead at halftime, then allowed
Denver to score 15 straight points to open the third quarter.

Dallas coach Avery Johnson tried shaking things up with three
timeouts in seven minutes. The last one finally did the trick,
sparking a 15-4 run to end that period, followed by a 19-6 run to
open the fourth.

Diop's last block appeared to seal the game at 81-80, but
Darrell Armstrong was fouled with 0.5 seconds left. After officials
watched a replay to make sure the whistle sounded before time ran
out, Armstrong made both free throws. Yet the Nuggets still had a
chance to force overtime.

Johnson put up a long 3 off an inbounds pass, but it hardly had
a chance.

Game notes
Dallas was without F Keith Van Horn because of a dislocated
middle finger on his right hand. He said he hopes to play Thursday
night. ... The Nuggets were 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. ... Mavs rookie
F Josh Powell made his NBA debut in the first quarter. He had two
rebounds in five minutes.