Arron Afflalo scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 101-86 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night in the opener of a crucial home-and-home set between playoff hopefuls.
The teams play again in Houston on Monday night.
With the win, the Nuggets took sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference, a-half game behind Dallas, which lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier Sunday.
The teams are clinging to the final two playoff spots in the West, trying to fend off fast-charging Phoenix and Utah.
Ty Lawson also scored 20 points for Denver, which has won five straight at home. Chase Budinger and Luis Scola each scored 19 to lead the Rockets, who lost their third straight game and saw their four-game road winning streak come to an end.