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Nuggets extend home win streak to 20

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets may be losing players, but they're not losing games.

In fact, they're setting records while aiming for a top-three seed in the NBA playoffs.

Wilson Chandler scored 21 points in his first start in place of Danilo Gallinari and the Nuggets beat the Houston Rockets 132-114 on Saturday night for their franchise-tying 20th straight home win.

The Nuggets won their fourth in a row despite losing the versatile Gallinari to a torn ACL in his left knee in Thursday's win over Dallas. They set a season high in points, surpassing the 128 scored against Chicago on Feb. 7.

"My team has been very good about meeting challenges," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "They have a competitive spirit that, for a young team, is pretty strong."

Corey Brewer continued his strong play for the Nuggets with 22 points and Andre Iguodala had 18 points and 14 assists.

It was the type of game the Nuggets needed as they push for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference without their top two scorers. While leading scorer Ty Lawson likely will return at some point, most likely in the playoffs, Gallinari is done for this year.

With five games left in the season, Denver is trying to stay hot and finish strong.

"We pride ourselves on being a deep team," Brewer said. "we've got a lot of guys who can play."

They needed all of them after a slow start. The Nuggets turned a 12-point deficit into a blowout with strong play during the middle of the game. Denver outscored the Rockets 77-48 in the second and third quarters to match the longest home winning streak since the 1984-85 season.

"They scored 38 and 39 points in the second and third quarters and we couldn't get stops," said guard Jeremy Lin, who led Houston with 23 points. "That pretty much broke it open. It challenged us to play that pace for 48 minutes, which we weren't able to sustain."

Houston's drive to clinch a playoff spot stalled, along with its four-game win streak. The Rockets entered Saturday with a magic number of two to clinch a postseason trip and it remained that way.

Denver continued its dominating home season. The Nuggets are now 35-3 at Pepsi Center, one win from tying the franchise record for home victories.

The Rockets were coming off a win in Portland on Friday but looked fresh early. They hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter, which helped fuel a 14-0 run that propelled them to a 32-20 lead.

The Nuggets survived the rough first quarter to take a 64-56 lead at halftime. Denver hit 14 of 21 shots from the field in the second quarter and outscored the Rockets 39-21.

The Nuggets continued to push the pace and force turnovers, which they turned into easy baskets.

"I think throwing the ball to them was a bigger focal point," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "They had 32 points off our turnovers and 18 points off offensive rebounds. There's no defense for throwing them the ball for a layup. It's hard to overcome. You have to throw the ball to your teammate."

The turnovers helped Denver scored 74 points in the paint and produce a season-high 40 assists. Guard Andre Miller had 12 of them, and rookie Evan Fournier had 17 points and five assists off the bench.

"Fournier and Brewer came in and changed the whole dynamic," McHale said. "Started scrapping, started double-teaming in the backcourt. We quit pushing it, we quit moving it and it snowballed."

NOTES: Rockets forward Chandler Parsons missed his third game in the last four with an injured calf. Guard Carlos Delfino missed his third straight game with a right foot injury/flu symptoms. ... The Nuggets struggled defensively to start the season but are fifth in defensive efficiency since March 1. Karl said his team needs to be even better for the rest of the season and playoffs. "The first thing I wrote in my notes this morning was 'We can't be a goof-around defensive team anymore, and our defense now has to create offense,' " Karl said. "We have too many quarters we cruise-control on defense. I don't think we can do that." Because of the importance of defense, Karl said he would probably play Anthony Randolph more with Gallinari out. "My gut says it's between Anthony and Jordan (Hamilton) and I lean probably to Anthony," Karl said. "I like his defense." ... The Rockets averaged 22 turnovers in the first three games against Denver.
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