Regular Season Series (Game 2 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

Nuggets 92

(17-18, 6-10 away)

Rockets 90

(12-20, 3-10 home)

Coverage: FSSW

7:30 PM ET, January 8, 2006

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 16 24 27 2592
HOU 20 17 25 2890

Top Performers

Den: E. Watson 20 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Ast

Hou: R. Alston 24 Pts, 5 Reb, 11 Ast, 3 Stl

Melo's late jumper lifts Nuggets over Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets are starting to wonder what else can go wrong.

Plagued by injuries since the preseason, the Rockets lost Tracy McGrady to a back injury again on Sunday night, then were beaten by Denver 92-90 on Carmelo Anthony's last-second shot from the baseline.

McGrady, who had topped 30 points in Houston's last five games, missed a long jumper in the final seconds of the first half, then crumpled to the floor, grabbing his back and screaming in pain as the buzzer sounded.

The six-time All-Star was taken off the floor on a stretcher and rushed to a hospital. McGrady missed eight games earlier this season with back spasms and the Rockets lost them all.

Rockets spokesman Nelson Luis said after the game that McGrady was getting an MRI and would be re-evaluated on Monday.

"The doctor told me he thinks it's a bad back spasm and hopefully, he'll be OK," owner Les Alexander said after the game. "He doesn't think it's anything serious that will keep him out for a long time."

Earl Watson scored 20 and Anthony finished with 19 for the Nuggets, who played most of the final three quarters without Kenyon Martin, who strained his back.

The Nuggets have had their own injury problems -- Marcus Camby is out with a broken finger and Nene is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL.

"I'm not going to argue about who misses who the most," said Denver coach George Karl. "They have to get healthy and we have to get healthy."

With Houston up 88-87, Francisco Elson missed a medium-range jumper with 53 seconds left, but Anthony grabbed the key rebound, setting up Earl Boykins' go-ahead 3-pointer.

Late in Houston's next possession, Stromile Swift picked up a loose ball in the lane and was fouled by Andre Miller with 19.2 seconds left. Swift made both free throws to tie the game at 90-all.

The 6-foot-8 Anthony, guarded by the 6-9 McGrady in the first half, got the ball in the corner and rattled in the game-winner over 6-1 David Wesley.

"It was a simple play and they let 'Melo have a size advantage," Karl said. "We knew Carmelo could get the ball over him."

Out of a time out, Jon Barry inbounded to Swift, who lost the ball as the buzzer sounded.

"This is the worst I've ever seen," Barry said of Houston's rash of injuries. "Nothing really happened with Tracy. He just came down. It was just bad luck."

Anthony, who said he struggled with back problems when he played at Syracuse, was concerned about McGrady after the game.

"I know him pretty well and it hurts me to see him like that," Anthony said. "Once you have back problems, they're not going to go away the next day or the next week. If I could tell him anything, I'd just say relax and rest it."

The Rockets actually shot better on Sunday without McGrady, going 11-for-20 (55 percent) in the third quarter after shooting 35 percent in the first half.

"With Tracy going down, we played harder," said Wesley, who scored 15. "We didn't necessarily play smarter in spots. But I think we actually played a lot harder with a little more inspiration."

The Nuggets still led 67-62 heading to the fourth, but a steal by Luther Head and a fast-break layup by Rafer Alston put Houston up 83-82. Alston scored a season-high 24.

The Nuggets trailed by as many as nine in the first half, but rallied for a 40-37 lead at the break.

McGrady's painful departure added to a remarkably long list of injuries and absences that have ravaged the Rockets' season.

Yao is out at least another month after toe surgery to remove an infection and Juwan Howard served a one-game suspension Sunday after a confrontation with Toronto's Mike James on Friday. Guard Derek Anderson has been out since Dec. 12 with a calf strain and guards Alston and Barry recently returned from leg injuries that kept them out a total of 34 games.

"This has been bad," Barry said. "It seems like we can't get any consistency with any group of guys we have. That makes it that much more difficult."< ^Notes:@The Rockets re-signed rookie guard John Lucas III to a 10-day contract on Sunday, four days after waiving him. Lucas, son of former Rocket John Lucas, Jr., did not play. ...Swift and Martin were the top two overall picks in the 2000 NBA draft. ...The Nuggets were held under 100 points for just the second time in their last 12 games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 92 90
FGM-FGA 31-70 (.443) 36-80 (.450)
3PM-3PA 11-25 (.440) 7-22 (.318)
FTM-FTA 19-23 (.826) 11-16 (.688)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-37 10-36
Assists 21 24
Turnovers 19 16
Steals 6 9
Blocks 3 3
Fast Break Points 5 11
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 21 (1/0)
Largest Lead 6 9

Top Performers

Earl Watson Watson
Points: 20
Reb: 4
Ast: 3
Stl: 0
Blk: 0
Rafer Alston Alston
Points: 24
Reb: 5
Ast: 11
Stl: 3
Blk: 0