By Tim Reynolds, AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Danilo Gallinari hasn’t played in a postseason game since 2012, and the odds aren’t great that will change this year.
He’s still fighting anyway.
Gallinari scored a game-high 29 points, Nikola Jokic and Wilson Chandler each added 19, and the desperate Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 116-113 on Sunday night in a matchup of playoff hopefuls.
“We needed this one,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re still alive, man.”
Denver moved within two games of No. 8 Portland for the final spot in the Western Conference. Miami (37-40) held on to No. 8 in the East, even after a second-straight home loss. The Heat are a game behind No. 7 Chicago (38-39 after winning in New Orleans) and hold the tiebreaker over No. 9 Indiana (37-40 after losing in double overtime at Cleveland).
“This is like our playoffs right now, and it’s been like that for a while,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys are laying it all out there. We just haven’t been able to get the job done the last couple games.”
Goran Dragic scored 22 points for the Heat. Josh Richardson scored 17, and Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Miami.
Denver survived some drama at the end. The Heat argued to referee Ron Garretson that Jokic traveled as he tried twice to inbound the ball after Tyler Johnson’s 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds left got Miami within 114-113.
Garretson wouldn’t hear it, waving Heat assistants and players back to the bench.
“We all would have liked to have seen that call, just to see what would happened,” Spoelstra said. “That doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Denver burned two timeouts before Jokic eventually got the ball in to Jamal Murray, who made two free throws. Richardson missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
“C’mon man, he walked. He walked,” said Whiteside, who was guarding the inbounds. “I don’t want to speak on it too much because the NBA loves fining people a lot of money, so I’m going to keep my money. But there’s a reason why y’all asked that.”
Gallinari hit two straight jumpers late in the fourth to push a one-point Denver lead out to six, and the Nuggets would hang on from there.
“Very good game, tough game ’til the end,” Gallinari said. “Very emotional for everybody. A very good win.”