Nuggets-Rockets Preview

The Denver Nuggets couldn’t beat the Houston Rockets last week

despite a banner night from Carmelo Anthony.

That’s a familiar refrain for Denver these day.

Anthony looks to continue his outstanding play and help the

Nuggets avoid a fourth loss in five games when they visit Houston

on Monday night.

Anthony is averaging 34.2 points over the last six games, but

Denver (31-24) has only won two of them.

The Nuggets’ star was superb at home against the Rockets (25-30)

last Monday. He matched his career high of 50 points, but Denver

failed to capitalize and fell 108-103 at home.

The Nuggets wasted another strong effort from Anthony on Sunday.

He scored 28 points at Memphis, but Denver squandered a 17-point,

third-quarter lead en route to a 116-108 defeat.

“We were up 17 and should have put it away,” Anthony said.

“Anytime you’re up 17 and you don’t win, you’re disappointed.”

Denver is currently sixth in the Western Conference, but only 1

1/2 games ahead of the ninth-place Grizzlies.

After facing Houston, the Nuggets visit Milwaukee on Wednesday

before entering the All-Star break. They’re 9-17 on the road, where

they’ve lost four of their last five.

“A lot of these games are very, very important,” coach George

Karl said. “We have to be aware of that.”

The Nuggets’ lone representative for Sunday’s All-Star game,

Anthony is averaging 38.0 points over his last five meetings with

the Rockets. Denver won three of those games.

A healthy Chauncey Billups could also make a difference against

Houston. The point guard left last week’s matchup late in the first

quarter with a left knee strain. He returned Thursday, scoring 30

points and getting his ninth assist on Arron Afflalo’s

buzzer-beater to clinch a 121-120 win over Dallas.

Billups had a much tougher time in Sunday’s loss, finishing with

13 points and six turnovers.

The Rockets, last in the Southwest Division, failed to build on

last week’s win over Denver, losing 112-108 to Minnesota on Tuesday

and 106-102 to the Mavericks on Saturday.

Both of those defeats came at home, where Houston has dropped

seven of its last 11.

“I don’t care how many games we have left, or what our record

is,” coach Rick Adelman said. “You’ve got to try to continue to

succeed and get better as an individual, and as a team, and that’s

what we have to do.”

Kevin Martin helped the Rockets counter Anthony last week,

totaling 37 points and seven assists against the Nuggets. The guard

was held to 17 points Saturday.

Kyle Lowry picked up some of the scoring slack against the Mavs,

finishing with 26 points to go with eight assists. Lowry wasn’t

nearly as productive versus Denver, scoring 11 points but missing 8

of 9 field-goal attempts.