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Rockets-Nuggets Preview

Rockets-Nuggets Preview
Without Tracy McGrady, everyone in the Houston Rockets' lineup realizes the importance of stepping up - even players who haven't seen much floor time this season.

On Sunday, the Rockets look for their second straight win without McGrady, who will sit out the team's visit with the Denver Nuggets.

McGrady will miss his third straight game as he prepares to confer with doctors on Monday about treatment options for the pain in his surgically repaired left knee.

Houston (11-6) improved to 1-1 without McGrady in the lineup after beating San Antonio 103-84 at home on Saturday. Seven Rockets scored in double figures led by McGrady's replacement Luther Head, who had a season-high 21 points. Ron Artest added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Head had played in just five games prior to Saturday and had been averaging 3.8 points, but got the start because Brent Barry was bothered by a strained right calf.

"Luther had a chance to start and I can't say enough about what he did," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "He exceeded everybody's expectations."

Although he's been seldom used, Head recognizes the opportunity McGrady's absence presents him.

"I've just got to stay ready," Head said. "Whenever my team calls upon me, I'm just going to come up there and try to play as hard as I can."

The Rockets made sure that unlike on Wednesday, when they blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead against Indiana to lose 91-90, they didn't let up. They finished the third quarter on a 15-6 run to take an 84-70 lead and took control from there.

Denver (11-6) also used a third-quarter run to break open a close contest in its last game, scoring 14 unanswered points Saturday en route to a 106-97 victory at Minnesota. Chauncey Billups finished with a season-high 27 points in only three quarters for the Nuggets, who have won three of their last four overall.

It marked the first time in five games Denver held an opponent to fewer than 100 points. The Nuggets scored 24 points off 17 Minnesota turnovers, and outscored the Timberwolves 21-5 on the fast break.

"We got a lot of steals. The ball just flowed," Denver coach George Karl said. "We got layups. We got open shots. Everybody seemed to be part of the offense and there seemed to be a continuity to it."

Although he went just 9 of 23 from the field, Carmelo Anthony finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. He has scored 20 points or more in five of the last six games.

"Carmelo is one of the best players in the league," Billups said. "I'm just here trying to help him get better and walk him through the gates. He's our star player."

The Nuggets and Rockets split their season series last season, when the home team won all four games. Anthony has scored 30 or more points in two of the last three meetings with the Rockets in Denver.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 30, 2008


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