Nuggets 118, Rockets 110

The Denver Nuggets knew January could make or break their

season.

Thanks to a big fourth quarter, they head into February with

momentum and confidence.

Danilo Gallinari scored a game-high 27 points, Kenneth Faried

had 19 points and nine rebounds and the Nuggets beat the Houston

Rockets 118-110 Wednesday night.

It was Denver’s fifth straight win and, just as important, it

capped a month in which it went 12-3. After spending most of the

first two months on the road they took advantage of 12 home games

to start 2013 off right.

”We knew from the beginning of the season January was the most

important month of the season,” said Gallinari, who tied a career

high with four blocked shots. ”I thought we responded well.”

Denver played 22 of its first 32 away from home, including 17 of

the first 23. It was the first time in 28 years a team had that

heavy a road schedule to start the season and on Dec. 31 the

Nuggets were 17-15.

Now they’re 29-18 and flying high.

”We took advantage of the schedule,” guard Andre Miller said.

”We did our job early maintaining .500 heading into the home

stretch in January.”

Ty Lawson scored 16 points and Andre Iguodala had 15 points for

the Nuggets, who beat Houston for the third time this season and

twice in the last week.

Jeremy Lin scored 22 points to lead the Rockets and James Harden

and Chandler Parsons added 21 each. The Rockets had won three

straight, including a 45-point win at Utah on Monday.

They couldn’t maintain the momentum when the Nuggets turned up

their defense.

”Defensively, the first 10, 11 minutes of the fourth quarter

was probably the reason we won it easy,” Denver coach George Karl

said. ”Our offensive was good but we got confidence in the game

when we finally kept them out of the paint, kept them off the

boards.”

Marcus Morris’ 3-pointer with a minute left in the third gave

Houston an 85-77 lead but Denver closed out the period strong to

trail just 86-83 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Two 3-pointers by Gallinari and some missed shots by the Rockets

sparked a 24-3 Nuggets run that gave them a 101-88 lead with 6:54

left. The Rockets missed six straight shots and committed six

turnovers, which helped Denver take the big lead.

Houston had 22 turnovers overall.

”Our turnovers caught up to us. Our defensive deficiencies

caught up to us,” Lin said. ”They hit tough shots. They had eight

3-pointers the whole game and they probably had four or five in the

fourth quarter. They just got hot and we were trying to play uphill

and come back from there on out.”

Houston clawed back as a jumper by Lin and two 3s by Carlos

Delfino trimmed the lead to 101-95 with 4:55 left. Gallinari

answered with a corner 3three to make it a nine-point margin.

”Couple of calls and they got to the foul line. They got the

momentum from there,” Harden said. ”It’s tough. They are so

athletic. They get out in transition. Their point guard pushed the

ball, they got so many guys who can score. Gallinari hit a couple

of big 3s, too.”

The Rockets went on a 7-2 run to pull to 106-102 with 2:55 left,

but consecutive buckets by Andre Miller and Lawson made it an

eight-point game and Denver closed it out.

”Gallinari made a couple of tough 3s and then we decided we

were going to do it on our own,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said.

”It snowballed a little bit and they got ahead. We had to fight

back. You never want to lose. You especially don’t want to lose

when it’s self-inflicted, and we did.”

The Rockets led by as eight in the third quarter. Toney Douglas

helped build the lead with a steal and layup on two straight Denver

possessions to help Houston build the lead.

The score was close throughout the first half with neither team

leading by more than four. Harden led the way for the Rockets with

13 and Iguodala had 12 for the Nuggets.

Both teams got to the line in first two quarters, shooting a

combined 38 free throws.

NOTES: The 12 wins tied for the most ever in January for Denver.

It was last done a year ago. … Faried was named to the roster for

the Rising Stars Challenge at All Star Weekend in Houston. Faried

is averaging 11.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 46 starts this season

… The Rockets have averaged 20.7 turnovers in the first three

games against Denver. Harden committed 19 of their 62 turnovers.

… The Nuggets reassigned G Julyan Stone to the Iowa Energy of the

NBA Developmental League.