HOUSTON -- The Denver Nuggets opened the season with great expectations derived from a returning roster replete with talent and reinforced by the addition of Olympian and All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala.
That it took the Nuggets four games to record their first victory inspired minor concern. But following their triumph over the Pistons on Tuesday night, the Nuggets won again Wednesday night at Toyota Center, with their 93-87 victory over the Houston Rockets inching them closer to .500.
While their shooting wasn't exceptional, the Nuggets (2-3) showed flashes of what made them so efficient offensively a year ago. Their offensive rebounding, interior scoring and depth, hallmarks last season, were critical factors in establishing the 15-point lead that provided enough of a cushion to keep the Rockets (2-2) at bay in the second half.
Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (21 points, eight assists, three steals) was sensational in a runaway second quarter, while reserves Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee combined for 26 points and seven rebounds.
Iguodala, whose defensive prowess is central to his versatility, chipped in 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals while harassing Rockets guard James Harden, the Western Conference Player of the Week, into 5-for-15 shooting.
Both teams set ball-handling back several decades, combining for 42 turnovers against varying levels of pressure. However, the Nuggets established dominance on the offensive glass early. Even after the Rockets managed a more concerted effort on the defensive boards, Danilo Gallinari tipped in a missed Lawson free throw with 3:28 left to increase the Nuggets' lead to 87-80.
Gallinari (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Kenneth Faried (16 points, 16 rebounds) recorded double-doubles for the Nuggets, who finished with 44 points in the paint.
Harden and his backcourt mate, point guard Jeremy Lin, combined for 21 points on 7-for-24 shooting.
The Rockets continue to lean heavily on Harden, thus his slow start set an ominous tone in the opening quarter. He missed three of four shots and turned the ball over three times, often barreling to the basket in search of contact that never materialized. His poor shooting was emblematic of a team-wide issue, with the Rockets misfiring on 14 of 21 first-quarter attempts.
Houston also committed six turnovers and surrendered nine second-chance points in the first period.
The Nuggets committed six early turnovers to keeps the score close. However, once Denver shored up its ball-handling, and once Lawson began turning Rockets miscues into easy transition baskets, the Nuggets quickly built upon the 25-18 lead they held after one quarter.
Denver's ability to control the offensive glass, aided significantly by McGee (10 points, six rebounds in the first half), was the most pressing concern for the Rockets. But as Houston's turnovers multiplied, Lawson got going, spearheading a 19-6 run with 14 points, six in transition. His innate ability to dart from one end of the court to the other overwhelmed the Rockets, and what was a two-point Denver lead ballooned to 54-39 before Patrick Patterson drilled a short jumper with 1:11 remaining in the second quarter.
The Rockets trailed 56-41 at halftime, victimized by nine turnovers and 13 second-chance points by the Nuggets.
NOTES: Harden was selected the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 35.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.67 steals in three games. It was the first time he received the honor in his career. ... The Rockets followed a 58-rebound performance against the Hawks on Nov. 2 with 56 rebounds against the Trail Blazers in their home opener last Saturday. The last time they corralled 50-plus rebounds in three consecutive games came Feb. 18-22, 2003, when they did so in four successive games. ... The Nuggets finished 10-for-30 from 3-point range Tuesday against the Pistons. Last season, Denver finished 8-0 when making at least 10 3-pointers in a game.