Nuggets 105, Rockets 102

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 16, 2012
Arron Afflalo scored 26 points, Ty Lawson had 25 and the Denver Nuggets continued their playoff push with a 105-102 victory over the fading Houston Rockets on Monday night. Al Harrington added 15 points and Andre Miller had 13 assists for the Nuggets, who swept back-to-back games with the Rockets, the team directly behind them in the Western Conference standings. Denver began the night holding the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference, one game ahead of the Rockets. Houston was only one game ahead of Phoenix and 1 1/2 games ahead of Utah, who were both playing later Monday. Goran Dragic and Chandler Parsons scored 21 points apiece for the Rockets, who have dropped four straight after a four-game road winning streak. Denver led 75-74 after three quarters, and the fourth was tight all the way to the end. The Nuggets took a 99-98 lead into the final 2 minutes, and Afflalo found Harrington with a wraparound pass for an easy layup with 1:19 left to make it 101-98. Parsons rattled in a jumper from the free-throw line, but with all the Nuggets standing on the sideline, Lawson hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 45 seconds left to silence the noisy crowd. Patrick Patterson hit a short jumper, and Luis Scola had a chance to tie it, but his runner in the lane rattled out with 6 seconds left. Afflalo, a 79 percent free-throw shooter, split two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Rockets a chance to tie it. But Parsons' desperation 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim, and Denver sent Houston to its fourth straight home loss, a season high. Brewer scored all 11 of his points in the second half, and the Nuggets finished 9 for 18 from 3-point range to win in Houston for the first time since October 2010. The Nuggets shot 33 percent (8 for 24) in the first quarter, and McGee missed a point-blank layup on the first shot of the second as Denver trailed by as many as 11 points. But with Houston center Marcus Camby sidelined with a back injury, Denver got some easy baskets down low. Afflalo cut inside for consecutive layups to trim the deficit to 38-33 and force Rockets coach Kevin McHale to burn a timeout. The Rockets, meanwhile, went cold in the second quarter, missing 8 of their first 11 shots, including three 3-point attempts. Kyle Lowry hit a 3-pointer with 5:41 left in the first half, but Houston missed its next two shots and Lawson swished an answering 3 with 4:36 to go before the break. Afflalo then drove for another layup to tie it at 41-all. Houston finished the half with a 10-3 burst, capped by Courtney Lee's second 3-pointer, to lead 51-44. Despite the rally, Denver shot only 36 percent (16 of 45) in the first half. The Nuggets made 9 of their first 14 shots out of the break. Harrington made two 3s, and Afflalo scored in the lane to put Denver up 67-66. Lee swept in for a layup, and Houston moved back in front with 3:49 left in the quarter. The teams swapped the lead five more times, and Denver took a one-point lead to the final quarter. Notes: Rockets C Samuel Dalembert started for Camby and blocked seven shots, a season high. ... Scola had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his 100th career double-double. ... The Rockets went 8 for 29 from 3-point range (28 percent). ... Houston matched its season-high scoring total in a first quarter. ... Miller had at least 10 assists for the 15th time this season. ... The Nuggets have rallied from double-digit deficits to win 10 games this season. ... Denver coach George Karl is guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the 20th straight season.
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