NEW ORLEANS — Eric Gordon nearly handed the game to Denver with a late-game turnover that turned into a game-tying shot.
And then the Hornets’ shooting guard atoned, culling a foul on the Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo with 2.1 seconds to play.
Despite a three-month layoff, Gordon still had the game-winning touch, hitting both free throws to give New Orleans a 94-92 win.
Jason Smith intercepted the inbounds pass, ending the game and handing New Orleans just their third win in the past nine games.
Gordon finished with 15 points on 3 of 11 shooting, hitting 7 of 9 free throws and coming up with four assists. He also had won a game for the Hornets on their final possession for the second time in three games; he hit a game-winning shot against Phoenix in the season opener.
The shooting guard missed the past three months with a bruised knee that eventually required surgery.
Trevor Ariza had 15 points, Greivis Vasquez had 11 points and 10 assists and Chris Kaman added 14 points for the Hornets.
The Hornets as a team shot 52.2 percent, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range and blocked 10 shots. But turnovers nearly dealt the Hornets a blow, 19 of them turning into 24 Denver points.
None were bigger, though, than in the final 25 seconds when Gordon bobbled an inbounds pass out of bounds. Al Harrington drilled a long-range 3-pointer in front of the Hornets’ bench, tying the game at 92.
That set up Gordon’s charity stripe heroics, ending a night that turned out to be all about him.
After a sluggish first half, when he was 0-for-4, he took over in the third quarter. He went 3-for-3, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and scored nine points.
New Orleans took an early lead, jumping up 14-4. It appeared, at least in the opening six minutes, Gordon’s return would herald in a dominating win.
But Denver used a 14-4 run of its own to tie the game. A Carl Landry-putback at the first-quarter buzzer gave the Hornets a two-point lead.
New Orleans, though, couldn’t capitalize on that momentum and allowed Denver 11 of 16 from the floor in the second quarter, putting the Hornets in a 46-45 hole heading into halftime.
Gordon’s third-quarter helped pace the Hornets to a 75-67 lead heading into the final frame.
That only set up the close finish.