Houston (33-47) at Denver (44-36)

Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 58° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EDT Mon Apr 17, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A disheartening loss in their last game put something of a damper on the Denver Nuggets’ first division title in 18 years—and left coach George Karl unhappy with star forward Carmelo Anthony.

The Nuggets look to put the defeat behind them when they take on last-place Houston at the Pepsi Center.

With Anthony shut down by Sacramento’s Ron Artest, the Nuggets suffered a 100-82 defeat to the Kings on Saturday. The loss meant Denver, which won its first division title this season since 1987-88, will have to open the playoffs on the road because it won’t have a better record than the sixth seed, whether it’s the Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis.

The Nuggets seemed to have little chance to keep their home-court hopes for the first round alive because of Artest, who held Anthony to 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting. The fact that Anthony, averaging 26.6 points, was facing one of the NBA’s toughest defenders didn’t matter to Karl, who benched his star along with point guard Andre Miller in the fourth quarter.

“If you don’t execute and cut hard and make good decisions and finish plays, you’re not going to score against a great defender,” Karl said. “I thought Carmelo was close to having a good game, but I thought we went to more of a jump-shooting and non-executing offense and Artest is going to cover people.”

Guard Ruben Patterson was one of the few bright spots for Denver with a team-high 20 points. The Nuggets also got forward Kenyon Martin (10 points) and center Marcus Camby (10 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks) back from injuries.

The Rockets, assured of their worst record since finishing 28-54 in 2001-02, fell 93-81 to the Grizzlies on Saturday for their four straight loss and seventh in eight games. Houston concludes its regular season Wednesday at home against San Antonio.

“Our last two games are against the same type of competition (as Memphis) or even better,” Rockets rookie guard Luther Head said. “It’s all about just going out there and playing hard.”

Houston fell to 0-7 when Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming are both out of the lineup. McGrady has missed 32 games with a back injury, and Yao had surgery Friday on a broken left foot.

Juwan Howard had a team-high 16 points for the Rockets, who shot 2-for-11 from 3-point range Saturday and are 6-for-38 from beyond the arc in their last three games.

Houston has lost three of its last four road meetings with Denver.

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