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 open.”
Battier hit two 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter, including one that gave Houston an 89-86 lead with 46.7 seconds.
“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 cash considerations.
Blake certainly made quite an impression on his new teammates, though.
“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.