HOUSTON -- The Denver Nuggets were proficient in aspects the Houston Rockets frequently utilize to subdue opponents, and those skills helped the Nuggets to a 105-95 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
The Nuggets (26-18) dominated the Rockets (22-22) in both transition baskets and points in the paint during the decisive third quarter, expanding their two-point halftime lead into an 82-66 cushion heading into the fourth. The Nuggets outscored the Rockets 11-0 in fast-break points and tallied 20 of their 36 points in the third quarter in the paint.
Houston worked itself into a corner by fouling early and often following the intermission, and the Nuggets generated momentum with proficiency at the line.
Denver didn't waste that opportunity to pounce, flipping a three-point deficit into a 72-59 lead with a 20-4 blitz. Wilson Chandler opened the run with a game-tying 3-pointer at the 7:45 mark of the third before Danilo Gallinari sandwiched seven points around a pair of emphatic JaVale McGee dunks. Suddenly a rout was on and continued unabated.
The Nuggets' bench performed exceptionally, with Chandler (20 points) and McGee (14 points) seemingly scoring at will. Gallinari totaled 18 points while the Nuggets' starting backcourt of Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala combined for 35 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and five steals.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 23 points and seven assists.
Before their third-quarter collapse, the Rockets maintained contact despite their turnover woes. They surrendered 15 points off 14 turnovers in the first half yet trailed just 46-44 at the break. Their offense found a rhythm down the stretch of the second quarter, with a 12-0 run keyed by three-point plays from Harden and Jeremy Lin lifting Houston to a 44-40 lead with 1:23 remaining before halftime.
However, the Rockets surrendered 28 points off 23 turnovers, the seventh time in the last 10 games they've allowed at least 20. They have lost eight of their last nine games.
NOTES: Lost in the misery of the Rockets' recently concluded seven-game losing streak was the fact that those setbacks coincided with their most difficult stretch of schedule this season. Six losses came on the road with the Rockets in the midst of two spans of four games in five days. "When you looked at our schedule and I looked at the amount of games we had and the amount of practice that we had and our roster, I was like, 'Ooh, this is going to be a really challenging time,'" Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "I don't think you had to be a rocket scientist to figure out that one." ... Nuggets coach George Karl can sympathize with the Rockets' road woes. Denver opened the season with 22 of their first 32 games away from Pepsi Center. "The road is hard. The road is a difficult place to win if you're not playing well," Karl said. "You can play well and still lose on the road."