Stephen Jackson scored 23 points and the Charlotte Bobcats held off Denver, 100-98, last night to deny Nuggets coach George Karl his 1,000th NBA win.

Returning to North Carolina where he played in college and going up against his longtime friend and fellow former Tar Heel Larry Brown, Karl had hoped to become the seventh coach of the 1,000-win club.

The Nuggets nearly rallied from eight points down with 90 seconds left, but Chauncey Billups missed a tying jumper in the corner as time expired.

Billups scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony added 22 points and seven rebounds for the Nuggets, who had won seven straight.

The loss left the 59-year-old Karl stuck at 999 wins heading into a game at Boston tonight.

"We only come here one time a year and of course going against Larry is always a challenge," Karl said of Brown. "It would have been something I'd have remembered if I won my 1,000th here. But hopefully we'll get it on this trip."

Brown, the last coach to reach the 1,000-win club, said he admired Karl for what he has accomplished and overcome. Karl missed the final 2 months last season as he battled throat and neck cancer. Now much thinner, Karl is nearly part of an elite group.

Brown reminisced before the game about meeting Karl when he played pickup games in Chapel Hill when he was a player in the ABA and Karl was a college player.

"He was cocky as hell," Brown said, smiling, "and he hasn't changed."

Last night, Brown beat his friend for his 1,326th win in the NBA and ABA, leaving him 10 shy of breaking Don Nelson's record.

"He'll win another 1,000," Brown said of Karl. "I'm proud to be in the same league with him. All his teams play the right way. I'm proud of what he's accomplished. He's done a marvelous job and has overcome a lot."

In other games:

* At Atlanta, Josh Smith scored a season-high 34 points and the streaking Hawks beat the New Jersey Nets, 116-101.

The Hawks are 4-1 since losing top scorer Joe Johnson for 4 to 6 weeks to a right elbow injury and have won seven of eight overall. Brook Lopez led New Jersey with 24 points.

* At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points and third-string center Ian Mahinmi added 12 and a career-high 10 rebounds to lead the Mavericks to a 105-100 win over the Golden State Warriors.

* At Houston, Luis Scola had 35 points and 12 rebounds and Kyle Lowry had 22 points, 12 assists and six steals to lead the Rockets over the Detroit Pistons, 97-83.

* At Portland, Wesley Matthews scored 24 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 106-99 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were led by Steve Nash's 24 points, 15 assists.

Noteworthy

* New Jersey recalled swingman Terrence Williams from Springfield (Mass.) of the NBA Development League. Williams was sent down last month, after some lateness violations and other disagreements with the club.

* Minnesota cleared swingman Martell Webster for game action. He had back surgery on Oct. 25 and has not played this year after being acquired from Portland in a draft-night trade. The team says his specific return date has not been determined. The Timberwolves play Oklahoma City tonight.