Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series starts 12/23

Game 1: Friday, December 23rd
Game 2: Sunday, January 8th
Game 3: Friday, March 3rd
Game 4: Monday, April 17th

Rockets 86

(10-15, 7-8 away)

Nuggets 108

(13-14, 9-4 home)

    Coverage: FSSW

    7:00 PM ET, December 23, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 15 22 18 3186
    DEN 22 30 27 29108

    Top Performers

    Hou: J. Howard 18 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    Den: A. Miller 19 Pts, 5 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 86 108
    FGM-FGA 27-86 (.314) 41-86 (.477)
    3PM-3PA 5-24 (.208) 7-15 (.467)
    FTM-FTA 27-31 (.871) 19-31 (.613)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 16-49 16-58
    Assists 20 32
    Turnovers 15 17
    Steals 8 10
    Blocks 2 6
    Fast Break Points 9 20
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 28 (2/0) 24 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 0 29

    Top Performers

    Juwan Howard Howard
    Points: 18
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Andre Miller Miller
    Points: 19
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 0