A referee blunder and a last-gasp three-pointer from Carmelo Anthony gave the Denver Nuggets a controversial one-point victory over the Dallas Mavericks for a 3-0 lead in their NBA playoffs semi-final.
|Anthony celebrates as the Mavs' Rick Carlisle protests in vain [GALLO/GETTY]
In the East, LeBron James scored 47 points to power the Cleveland Cavaliers to an easy 97-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks, who face a mammoth task overturning a 3-0 deficit in their best-of-seven series, while Houston Rockets' Yao Ming will miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken foot.
With a second to play in Dallas, Anthony hit a three-pointer to give Denver a dramatic 106-105 victory over the Mavs, but Dallas complained that officials had missed a foul by Antoine Wright before Anthony's game-winner.
After reviewing the game, the NBA agreed.
"At the end of the Dallas-Denver game this evening, the officials missed an intentional foul committed by Antoine Wright on Carmelo Anthony, just prior to Anthony's three-point basket," Joel Litvin, the NBA president for league and basketball operations, said in a statement.
Unlike football – aka soccer in the United States, basketball has no advantage rule, so play must be stopped for a foul.
Nonetheless, the result stood.
"I think this is about as tough of a loss as I've been a part of in my 11 years in the league," Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, who had 33 points and 16 rebounds, said.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the officials clearly missed Wright fouling Anthony.
"In a game where there are 61 fouls called, an official decides not to call a foul when we were trying to take a foul," Carlisle said.
However, the Mavericks' Jason Kidd said the non-call did not cost Dallas the game.
"The game didn't come down to that last play," Kidd told The Dallas Morning News.
"We tried to take a foul and didn't get that. You've got to make plays down the stretch and we didn't do that."
Nuggets coach George Karl said he agreed with the call on the floor.
"I didn't see a foul," Karl said in a post-game news conference.
Anthony had five words to describe the game-winning three-pointer.
"Biggest shot of my life," he said.
The Nuggets forward scored the game's final five points and finished with 31 as he and Chauncey Billups, who had 32, led Denver to within one win of the conference final.
Game four will be held on Monday.
In Atlanta, LeBron had 12 rebounds and eight assists to help Cleveland win its sixth consecutive playoff game.
"I gave it all I had, I knew how important this game was," LeBron said.
"The playoffs are what I live for and what I work out for.
This is the biggest stage in the world and I want to perform the best I can."
Joe Johnson had 21 points and Josh Smith 18 for Atlanta, who host game four on Monday.
Rockets centre Ming will miss the remainder of the NBA playoffs with a broken left foot after an examination on Saturday revealed a hairline fracture.
Although no surgery is needed, Yao is expected to require eight to 12 weeks to recover, the Rockets said.
Yao's injury will come as a blow to the Rockets who trail 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.
The teams travel to Houston on Sunday for game four.
Yao broke the same foot in February 2008 and missed the NBA playoffs last year.
He returned to play for China in the Beijing Olympics.