OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Rasual Butler scored 20 points, including a big three-point play in the closing minutes, to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 99-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets in a matchup of depleted teams Friday night.

The victory ended a three-game losing streak for the Hornets, who were without four of their top five offensive players due to injury. Denver also was four players short, including Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, who are serving suspensions.

Allen Iverson, who scored 21 but was just 6-of-22 from the field, made two free throws with 2:24 left to bring the Nuggets within one. Then Butler converted his three-point play for a 91-87 lead.

Tyson Chandler later blocked two straight shots by Eduardo Najera, leading to a drive by Desmond Mason that gave the Hornets a 95-87 lead with just under a minute left.

The Nuggets scored just eight points in the final 91/2 minutes.

Devin Brown, picked up as a free agent a week ago, had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Hornets. Desmond Mason scored 17.

Earl Boykins led the Nuggets with 26 but scored just eight in the second half.

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AP-ES-12-29-06 2231EST


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