As the Nuggets watched every move made by McGrady, Battier
quietly went unnoticed.
"I like it that way," he said. "I don't want anyone to pay
attention to me. Hopefully, my defenders will keep leaving me
Battier hit two 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter, including
one that gave Houston an 89-86 lead with 46.7 seconds.
Yakhouba Diawara missed a 3-point attempt with 4.9 seconds
remaining in the game and Luther Head sealed the win by making one
of two free throws with 2.1 seconds left.
"I just hit a few jumpers," Battier modestly said. "At the
end of the of the night, that's all I did -- hit a few jumpers."
McGrady had 12 points and 11 assists as the Rockets won for the
eighth time in nine games.
"He's a playmaker," Battier said. "He makes the right
decisions 98 percent of the time. Some nights he helps us by
shooting, some nights by his assists."
Steve Blake scored 13 points -- all in the second half -- in his
Denver debut. Blake didn't practice with the team Friday morning as
he waited for the paperwork to go through on the trade that brought
him from Milwaukee in exchange for Earl Boykins, Julius Hodge and
Blake certainly made quite an impression on his new teammates,
"He's definitely a bright spot," Allen Iverson said. "He adds
a lot of toughness to our team."
Marcus Camby tied his career high with 24 rebounds despite
battling an illness and playing with a fractured right ring finger.
His 19 defensive rebounds tied an NBA season high.
"I tell Marcus all the time he's one of the few people who
doesn't have to score points to be a major factor in the game,"
Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Iverson, who was playing with a sore big toe on his right foot,
finished with 28 points. He scored the Nuggets' first 10 points.
"It was frustrating not to get the win," said Iverson, who
played 43 minutes, 43 seconds and is averaging a league-leading
42.7 minutes a game. "We had an opportunity to get the win, and we
just didn't get it done. They outplayed us."
When Battier was informed he almost matched Iverson in points,
he just laughed.
"A.I. scores more points in his sleep than I'll score in my
career," Battier said.
Houston fell behind 83-78 with 3:18 remaining in the game, but
didn't panic. After the Rockets called a timeout, the team closed
out the game on a 12-3 run.
So, what exactly did coach Jeff Van Gundy say to his players?
"Nothing really," Battier said. "We're a stoic group. We're
not going to let the highs and lows get to us. We just wanted to
play good, solid Rocket basketball."
The Nuggets are counting down the days until Carmelo Anthony
returns from his 15-game suspension. He will be back after three
more games. The Nuggets are 4-8 without him.
J.R. Smith, who recently finished up his 10-game suspension,
can't find his shot. He's a combined 9-for-30 from the field in two
games since his return. Smith had 11 points against the Rockets.
"It's just tough right now," Iverson said. "Maybe at the end
of the season we'll be laughing about these games right here,
especially the ones at home we should have won."
Najera is the only Nuggets player to have played in all 34
games this season. ... The Rockets are 8-2 since losing Yao Ming to
a fractured right leg on Dec. 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
... The Rockets are holding teams to a league-leading 89.1 points a
game. ... Dikembe Mutombo had four blocked shots and 10 rebounds
against his former team.