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Denver dominates injury-riddled Rockets at home

DENVER (AP) -- Flat and unfocused, the Houston Rockets had bigger
problems Friday night than their expansive injury list and Tracy
McGrady's poor shooting.

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and Denver held McGrady to a
single basket over the first three quarters to snap a four-game
losing streak with a 108-86 victory over the hobbled and
disinterested Rockets.

"Little put into the game," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said
during an unflinchingly harsh postgame news conference. "Not a
competitive game. Not a competitive spirit to make it a game. We
were beaten before the game started by our attitude and belief."

Marcus Camby had 12 points and 16 rebounds and Andre Miller had
19 points and nine assists, as the Nuggets won for the first time
since Dec. 13 and pulled within a game of the .500 mark -- far worse
than many expected from them at this point in the season.

"I thought we showed some passion out there," said Nuggets
coach George Karl, who questioned the team's intensity Wednesday
night after a loss at home to Washington.

The Rockets have been an even bigger disappointment than the
Nuggets, although they have their reasons.

Six players are injured, including Yao Ming, Jon Barry and Derek
Anderson. The results have been predictable enough: Teams try to
stop McGrady, and if they do, they win.

Coming off a 2-for-11 night in a loss at Toronto, McGrady went
4-for-17 and finished with 17 points against Denver. Facing double
teams and going against a rotation that included Anthony, Kenyon
Martin and Greg Buckner, he shot 1-for-13 through three quarters.

Houston only had nine players available, including CBA call-up
Stephen Graham, Moochie Norris and Lonnie Baxter, none of whom
would be seeing much more than mop-up duty were it not for the
injuries.

Van Gundy, who called the effort "what you would have seen from
guys that had played on lottery teams" refused, however, to use
the injury spate as an excuse.

"It goes beyond adversity," he said. "This is an attitude
situation. If there is adversity, so what? Anybody can be great
when it's going good. There is no tough set of circumstances. We
were very weak-minded when it came to dealing with our situation
tonight."

Houston actually kept the deficit inside 10 points through most
of the first two quarters. It was Anthony who drained all hope from
the Rockets when he shot a 3-pointer from the top of the circle
that rimmed around twice and dropped as the halftime buzzer
sounded.

That gave Denver a 52-37 lead, then DerMarr Johnson opened the
third quarter with back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 20, which is
where it stayed most of the rest of the night.

Of course, there was little the Rockets could do differently for
garbage time, simply because there was no bench to empty. Juwan
Howard led the Rockets with 18 points and seven rebounds and Swift
had 11.

McGrady, meanwhile, spent the final 6 minutes sitting
impassively, resting his head in his hand and staring into space,
watching the end of an evening during which his team shot 31
percent.

He said he couldn't disagree with Van Gundy's assessment.

"If that's what the coach said, he's the coach," McGrady said.
"If he senses right now the attitude stinks on the court, that's
what it is. As a player, you don't know until you see it on film."

The Nuggets, who have had plenty of injury problems as well,
played again without Earl Boykins (hamstring) and lost Martin to a
thigh contusion in the third quarter. Martin had already been
playing with a hurting left knee.

Anthony, meanwhile, stayed on a scoring streak in which he has
averaged more than 28 points over the last 10 games. He said the
win wasn't cheapened because of Houston's poor effort.

"It doesn't matter that they were struggling, we were
struggling too," Anthony said.

Game notes
Even with the Nuggets up big late, Karl did not play Voshon
Lenard, who irritated management by asking to be traded, and also
recently refused to enter at the end of a lopsided game. ... This
was the second time this season Denver has led a game from wire to
wire.

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