"We knew if we lost this game, it could be 10 in a row," said Littles, who took over the Nuggets after Dan Issel's sudden resignation Jan. 15. ''We're going to face playoff teams the next four games.
"This win is good for us and for our fans. But we've still got to find the right chemistry for this team, and we've got to step up and hit the big shot."
The Nuggets overcame 15-for-28 free throw shooting and held off a Nets' rally in the fourth quarter. Mutombo added 14 points and six blocked shots, and Robert Pack scored 14 points off the bench as Denver's reserves outscored New Jersey's, 50-26.
Ellis's 19-footer with 49 seconds left provided the final margin after New Jersey had scored eight straight points.
Kenny Anderson led the Nets with 19 points, but played only two minutes of the fourth quarter after aggravating a left forearm injury. Chris Morris had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Derrick Coleman had 12 points and nine rebounds.
The victory was Denver's 12th in succession over the Nets at McNichols Arena.
"We have too many games where we have a chance to win and we don't," Nets coach Butch Beard said. "We've got to learn how to win these kinds of games. We struggled all night trying to find the right combinations. We'll have to wait and see on Kenny."
Anderson said he injured his arm several weeks ago.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "It is swelling up. I don't remember getting hit on it, but it is very painful. I didn't feel like I could contribute by getting in the lane and creating things off the dribble, so I took myself out. I'll see the doctor when I get home."
Mutombo, the league leader in rebounds and blocked shots, pulled down nine rebounds in the first quarter alone as the Nuggets overcame 2-for-12 shooting to start the game.
Mutombo scored 10 points in the third quarter, and the Nuggets carried a 74-63 lead into the final period.
Denver shot 49 percent compared with New Jersey's 37 percent.
In other news:
HEAT: BUYOUT FOR TEAM
The Miami Heat will end up in the hands of the family that had majority ownership all along. Micky Arison, son of Carnival Cruise Lines founder Ted Arison, announced his family will buy out partners Billy Cunningham and Lewis Schaffel to gain full ownership of the NBA team. The deal will leave the Arisons with 88 percent of the Heat. Limited partners, who include the likes of singer Julio Iglesias, will continue to own 12 percent of the team.
HORNETS: NEW ARENA?
The Charlotte Hornets could build their own arena if a deal can't be worked out to buy or lease the Charlotte Coliseum from the city, the team's president says. Spencer Stolpen says the team wants to renovate the Coliseum to add more luxury skyboxes and club seating so its revenues can remain competitive with other NBA teams.
KINGS: COACH WANTS EXTENSION
Sacramento Kings coach Garry St. Jean, who in the preseason appeared on the short list of coaches in danger of being fired, will seek a contract extension. The Kings are in the hunt for a playoff spot for the first time in a decade. St. Jean's contract ends after this season.