Regular Season Series (Game 3 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 78

(31-28, 12-16 away)

Rockets 89

(26-33, 11-18 home)

Coverage: FSSW

7:30 PM ET, March 3, 2006

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 24 20 20 1478
HOU 16 30 27 1689

Top Performers

Den: C. Anthony 34 Pts, 4 Reb, 4 Stl

Hou: T. McGrady 23 Pts, 11 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 Blk

Rockets beat Nuggets behind McGrady, Yao

HOUSTON (AP) -- Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy finally got what he's been looking for from his team on Friday night.

Intensity. Hustle. Passion.

And it equaled an 89-78 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Tracy McGrady scored 23 points and had four blocks and Yao Ming added 21 as the Rockets finally held onto a lead after losing two straight when they held a late double-digit advantage.

"That was by far the most passionate that McGrady has played in some time," Van Gundy said. "I thought he was off the charts tonight, just very assertive on offense, vocal, on the board defensively.

"I just thought he was great."

The Rockets overcame an eight-point deficit midway through the second quarter and didn't trail again.

"I know what inspiring basketball is," Van Gundy said. "When we're dead in the water and we're not playing the way we're capable of, I'm going to say that. But tonight we were very inspiring."

Andre Miller's nifty reverse layup got Denver within 76-70 with about 6 minutes left. But a 3-pointer by Rafer Alston followed by a monster two-handed dunk by Yao extended Houston's lead to 81-70.

Yao followed his dunk with an emphatic block on Kenyon Martin that sent the ball flying into the crowd and the Nuggets wouldn't threaten again.

"When we play like we played tonight, I feel we're one of the better teams in the league," McGrady said. "We have to do it more consistently though, but we showed we can play with the best.

"Now we've got to look at this and understand that this is the type of team we can be."

Denver got 34 points from Carmelo Anthony in his best outing since the All-Star break, but he didn't get much help and only scored four points in the fourth. The Nuggets second-leading scorer was Marcus Camby with 10 points.

"He needed some help and we couldn't find anyone else to help him," said Nuggets coach George Karl.

Anthony's teammates agreed.

"He was the only one," Martin said. "You can't win games that way."

Houston outscored Denver 14-4 in the opening minutes of the third quarter, led by Yao's eight points, to build its two-point halftime lead to 60-48.

Anthony single-handedly led a comeback as he outscored the Rockets 12-4 in the next few minutes to cut the lead to 64-60.

"I didn't know what my numbers were, but I knew I needed to hit some shots," he said. "Then I realized I was going off all by myself."

Denver got within four late in the third, but Alston answered with a 3 and then McGrady added two free throws and a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to 73-64 entering the fourth.

The Rockets got a spark from the return of forward Stromile Swift, who scored 15 points and had six rebounds after missing the last five games with a sprained ankle. Rookie Luther Head added eight points and had two 3s.

"I think I could have done better, but it's hard coming back off of an injury," Swift said.

The Rockets held the Nuggets to 33 percent shooting and had a season-high 11 blocked shots. Denver shot under 18 percent from 3-point range, raising more questions about the team's need for a long-range shooter.

"It's overrated," Karl said. "We can win with what we have. We could use a shooter, but it will be all right if we don't get one."

The Nuggets led 24-16 at the end of the first, spurred by 12 points by Anthony and seven turnovers by the Rockets.

Anthony sat out the first six minutes of the second quarter and the Rockets were able to tie the game at 30 with a 3-pointer by Head.

The game was tied at 35 when Houston went on a 9-2 run capped by a 3 by McGrady to take a 42-37 lead.

It's the Rockets first win of the season over Denver after the Nuggets won the first two.

Game notes

Yao had nine rebounds against Denver to break his streak of five double-doubles. ...Nuggets G Howard Eisley, who was signed to a 10-day contract Friday, was inactive against Houston. ... Rick Brunson, who was claimed off waivers by the Rockets on Thursday, was also inactive. ...Denver's Greg Buckner had seven assists, a career high.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 78 89
FGM-FGA 30-90 (.333) 33-79 (.418)
3PM-3PA 3-17 (.176) 9-26 (.346)
FTM-FTA 15-22 (.682) 14-21 (.667)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 20-51 10-44
Assists 15 26
Turnovers 17 18
Steals 11 8
Blocks 5 11
Fast Break Points 6 11
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (1/0) 19 (1/0)
Largest Lead 8 13

Top Performers

Carmelo Anthony Anthony
Points: 34
Reb: 4
Ast: 0
Stl: 4
Blk: 0
Tracy McGrady McGrady
Points: 23
Reb: 11
Ast: 4
Stl: 0
Blk: 4