DENVER (AP) Emmanuel Mudiay's game-winning heave nearly didn't get off the ground.
Dodging defenders, including one who momentarily slapped the ball away, Mudiay regained control of it just in time to make a 35-foot rainbow at the buzzer and give the Denver Nuggets a 104-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Mudiay, who finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, was between defenders and off-balance when he launched the shot.
''I knocked the ball out of his hands and he picked it up and made what seemed to be a double-clutch 3-pointer,'' said the 76ers' T.J. McConnell. ''It's one of the craziest shots I've ever seen. There really isn't much else to say.''
Mudiay said he had just one thought after regaining control of the ball.
''Just get it up,'' he said.
But there also was some pre-shot inspiration.
''Before that, I was thinking of March Madness because anything can happen,'' Mudiay said.
Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris added 18 points apiece for the Nuggets, who won their fifth straight at home.
McConnell had 17 points for the 76ers, who lost their seventh straight. Robert Covington, who missed the previous six games with a concussion, added 16 points.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said the 76ers came very close to preventing the final shot.
''T.J. hit it and he almost had a steal,'' Brown said. ''Give Mudiay a lot of credit. I thought he had a great game and for him hit that circus shot at the end to win it, it was a cruel way to lose a game.''
Trailing by eight at the half, the 76ers pulled within 75-73 heading into the fourth quarter.
A jumper by McConnell gave Philadelphia a 91-88 lead with 7:04 remaining, but Jokic scored seven straight points for the Nuggets to help them go back in front 97-94 with 3:59 remaining.
Philadelphia then reeled off eight straight points, six coming from Carl Landry, including a jumper with 1:52 left that put the 76ers up 102-97. Landry finished with 16 points.
Jokic and Harris each made a pair of free throws in the final minute, pulling the Nuggets within one. After Covington missed a long jumper, Denver got a chance for a go-ahead shot in the final seconds but Mudiay missed a contested layup with 3.9 seconds remaining and the 76ers secured the rebound.
Covington made one of two free throws with 3.1 seconds remaining, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Outscoring the 76ers 23-4 over the last 8:18 of the second quarter, the Nuggets surged to a 53-45 halftime lead.
Mudiay had nine points during the run, including a breakaway dunk and a three-point play that he converted in the final minute of the second quarter.
Philadelphia was limited to 10 points in the second quarter after breaking on top earlier, leading 37-24 after a basket by McConnell some 80 seconds into the period.
76ers: F Nerlens Noel missed the game with a right knee contusion. ... G Kendall Marshall did not suit up for the game because of illness. ... F Richaun Holmes (right Achilles strain) also returned from six-game absences.
Nuggets: F Kenneth Faried was sidelined for a fourth consecutive game because of a back injury. ... C Joffrey Lauvergne is playing with a clear plastic facial mask to protect a still healing sinus wall fracture suffered a week and a half ago when he took an inadvertent elbow to his face.
COMING IN FROM THE COLD
The game was played before a sparse crowd that braved daylong blizzard conditions to come see it.
''A big shout-out to the fans who did come out and braved the elements. We really appreciate you,'' said Nuggets coach Michael Malone.
76ers: at Portland on Saturday night
Nuggets: at LA Lakers on Friday night