Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 3)

Series starts 11/27

Game 1: Saturday, November 27th
Game 2: Sunday, January 9th
Game 3: Saturday, April 16th

Rockets 116

(17-17, 6-9 away)

Nuggets 98

(14-19, 10-8 home)

    Coverage: FSSW

    7:00 PM ET, January 9, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 35 23 17 41116
    DEN 23 24 26 2598

    Top Performers

    Houston: T. McGrady 45 Pts, 12 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Denver: K. Martin 15 Pts, 10 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Nuggets' slump continues with fourth loss in a row

    DENVER (AP) -- The big lead all but gone and the game getting tight, Tracy McGrady told himself it was time to take over.

    Boy, did he.

    McGrady scored 20 his 45 points in the fourth quarter and had 12 rebounds to help the Houston Rockets pull away for a 116-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

    "I told myself in the fourth that I needed to take over the game and impose my will on it," McGrady said. "I felt comfortable with the shots in the first half that I missed that should have fallen for me, so I told myself I was going to take those shots in the fourth."

    Houston jumped out to a 17-point lead early and had some defensive breakdowns to let the Nuggets climb back in the third quarter. Then McGrady did his thing.

    Wearing a bandage to protect a sprained left thumb sustained in the second quarter, T-Mac hit four 3-pointers and was 7-of-9 overall in the final period, reaching 40 points for the third time this season -- and the second in five games. He finished 15-of-26, had five assists and blocked three shots.

    "He has special skills," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

    Yao Ming added 21 points and seven rebounds for Houston, which shot 51 percent and went 11-of-19 from 3-point range.

    Denver has lost four straight and 10 of 11, and this one looked a whole lot like the rest.

    The Nuggets fell behind early, rallied to make it close and didn't have enough left to finish it off. And it doesn't get any easier. Denver faces Sacramento, the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota this week, then plays seven of its next eight games on the road.

    Carmelo Anthony had 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting, and Kenyon Martin added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who are 1-4 under interim coach Michael Cooper.

    "This was frustrating," Nuggets center Marcus Camby said. "We dug ourselves a hole. That always seems to happen. We can't be spotting teams 14, 15 point-leads and try to play catch-up."

    The game got tight and testy in the third quarter, with plenty of pushing, jawing and technicals.

    Houston's Bobby Sura and Denver's Nene were hit with technicals for pushing each other down the court early, then Cooper was hit with one for coming onto the court after a series of calls went against the Nuggets.

    Sura was involved in another scuffle late in the quarter when he fouled Anthony hard on a layup and was shoved to the floor. Anthony, who sprained his ankle on a similar foul by Sura the last time these teams met, was called for a technical after knocking Sura down.

    And they weren't done. Another set of technicals were called shortly after that, this time when Houston's Maurice Taylor and the Nuggets' Francisco Elson got tangled.

    By the time the quarter was over, Denver had trimmed Houston's 17-point lead to 75-73.

    The Nuggets just couldn't keep it up.

    Expending so much energy on the floor and yelling at the officials seemed to wear them out, and Houston opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run, going up 88-75 on McGrady's tough reverse across the lane with 8½ minutes left.

    "We got caught up with complaining about calls instead of playing the game," Cooper said. "Winning teams forget about the officials. I didn't. I got a technical. That was a turning point. We never got over that hump and when we got down, it was hard to get back up."

    McGrady didn't give the Nuggets much of a chance, hitting 2-of-3 free throws, a long jumper and a 3-pointer to put Houston up 99-85 with 4½ minutes left. He added two more 3-pointers and an offbalance jumper to seal the victory.

    McGrady wasn't too bad in the first half, either. He brought everyone on Houston's bench to their feet with a dunk over Andre Miller late in the first quarter, then scored 15 points in the second to finish the half with 22.

    "When you get a player like McGrady shooting the ball like that, it's tough to do anything," Cooper said. "We doubled and switched on him, and he had it going."

    Game notes

    Nuggets G Greg Buckner missed his fifth straight game with a groin injury, though he could be back Tuesday against Sacramento. ... Miller returned after spraining his right ankle in the third quarter, but didn't come back after straining his left calf in the fourth. ... Anthony's fiance, MTV veejay La La Vasquez, attended the game. ... McGrady has at least 20 points in 13 straight games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 116 98
    FGM-FGA 42-81 (.519) 31-73 (.425)
    3PM-3PA 11-19 (.579) 5-13 (.385)
    FTM-FTA 21-27 (.778) 31-38 (.816)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-38 9-37
    Assists 26 22
    Turnovers 13 14
    Steals 7 7
    Blocks 9 7
    Fast Break Points 10 14
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (3/0) 21 (4/0)
    Largest Lead 21 0

    Top Performers

    Tracy McGrady McGrady
    Points: 45
    Reb: 12
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 3
    Kenyon Martin Martin
    Points: 15
    Reb: 10
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 3