HOUSTON, March 29 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis
scored 18 points to lead
seven players in double figures for the Houston Rockets, who
needed a late surge to put away the last-place Denver Nuggets,
Francis also grabbed 12 rebounds and hit a pair of free throws
with 20 seconds left to cap a 13-2 run and close the scoring for
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"I think this was one of our most complete games," Francis said.
"We had seven players in double figures, and that's big for
dunked with 8.5 seconds left for Denver.
The Rockets led 81-68 after three quarters but allowed the
Nuggets to get within 87-83 with 4:32 left. Maurice Taylor
responded with a follow shot and Denver rookie Nene Hilario
a layup before Taylor started the key run with a layup.
Taylor had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting off the bench, while
Hilario had a strong game for the Nuggets with 17 points and
led Denver with a season-high 18 points but scored
just two in the fourth quarter. White was the Nuggets's top
scorer down the stretch, netting six of his 14 points in the
"Marcus did a heck of a job," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
"He was very efficient. He had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and
that's a great night."
Despite winning for just the third time in eight contests, the
Rockets moved within one-half game of Phoenix for the final
Western Conference playoff spot.
had 12 points, James Posey
and rookie Yao Ming
added 11 apiece and Eddie Griffin
10 for the Rockiets, who are
6-1 when all five starters reach double figures.
"I thought we had good ball movement," interim Houston coach
Larry Smith said. "We swung it to the open guy. Everybody came
in and contributed well. We made the plays late when it was
crunch time and made the stops when we were supposed to."
Hilario chipoped in 17 points and seven rebounds for Denver,
which has lost five straight road games and four in a row at the
The Nuggets were without forward Juwan Howard, who is battling
the flu. Rookie Nikoloz Tskitishvili started in his place and
had six points and two rebounds.
Denver shot just 40 percent (35-of-87) from the field and was
3-of-11 from 3-point range. Shammond Williams hit all three of
the Nuggets' shots from the arc and scored 11 points.
Of Denver's 57 losses, 33 have been by at least 10 points.