Houston loses third in a row; Melo sprains ankle

HOUSTON (AP) -- Denver coach Jeff Bdzelik thinks he might have
solved the Denver Nuggets' offensive problems in the first quarter
of games.

"I saw where we were minus-6 in first-quarter play," Bdzelik
said. "We got them out there early tonight and got a good sweat
going, so they were ready from the opening tap."

Andre Miller scored 20 points, Kenyon Martin 19 and the Nuggets
used a big run in the opening quarter to win their first road game,
82-76 over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Midway through the first quarter, the Nuggets went on an 11-0
run to take a 19-7 lead. Their lead got to 25-11 before settling
for a 25-13 advantage at the end of the period.

The Nuggets had a scare in the third quarter when Carmelo
Anthony sprained his right ankle. He hit the floor hard on a foul
by Bob Sura with 2:21 left in the period and stayed down for
several minutes before being helped off the floor.

X-rays were negative and Anthony is day-to-day.

At the start of the game, the Nuggets questioned if the height
of the goal they started out on was correct and tipoff was briefly
delayed while officials measured it.

Then, referee Mike Callahan came to the side and told the
official scorer, "We're playing the game with the baskets like
this," and the game was started.

Denver then missed its first seven shots from the field, but
Houston was equally inept and missed its first five and made two
quick turnovers.

"We tried to run them and tire them out," Denver's Marcus
Camby said.

The Nuggets outrebounded Houston 47-37.

"We have been outrebounded in all but three games and we made a
conscious effort to turn that around," Bzdelik said. "We knew
that couldn't continue. We made a big effort."

Tracy McGrady and Scott Padgett each had 14 points for Houston,
which lost its third in a row. Yao Ming had only eight points and
six rebounds.

"Our rebounding has been a concern for a long time," said Jeff
Van Gundy, pointing out that Houston is 1-8 when outrebounded this
season. "We're obviously not pursuing the ball as we should. The
coach should have the team playing with energy and passion and
obviously I don't have them doing that."

Yao agreed.

"I think I did a bad job," he said. "I was waiting for the
rebounds to come to me and I have to go get them."

McGrady had no excuses.

"We're having slow starts and then trying to fight back at the
end," McGrady said. "We come back like fighting dogs, but it's
just not enough. Some how, some way, we've got to come out with
greater intensity from the start of games."

Denver missed 12 of its first 14 shots in the fourth quarter,
allowing Houston to pull back to within 72-69 with 5:15 to play.
But Camby had a three-point play, Greg Buckner hit four free throws
and Martin hit a big fadeaway jumper with 2:04 to play to increase
the lead to 81-72.

Sura, activated from the injured list before the game, and Jim
Jackson each missed 3-pointers in the final minute. Martin hit a
free throw with 7 seconds left as the Nuggets held on for the win --
their first in four road games.

Denver scored 10 unanswered points to take a 37-22 lead with
4:30 left in the first half. The Nuggets led 46-34 at halftime as
the Rockets were held to season lows for points in the first
quarter and first half.

Game notes
The Rockets placed guard Charlie Ward on the injured list
with a bruised right knee to make room for Sura, who had been out
all year after undergoing corrective surgery to repair a herniated
disk in his lower back Sept. 1. Sura saw his first action when he
came in with 5:56 to play in the second quarter. ... Martin fell
hard on his back trying for a rebound in the second quarter and had
to briefly leave the game at 7:28, but returned a short time later.
... Nene received an offensive foul when he tried to drive and ran
into Scott Padgett, who received a bloody nose in the second
quarter. He left and the game had to be stopped to clean blood off
the floor. Padgett returned in the third quarter.

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