Anthony Stuns Rockets, McGrady Injured
Denver 92, Houston 90
HOUSTON, Jan. 8 (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony made Sunday night especially painful for the Houston Rockets.
Anthony nailed a go-ahead jumper with one second remaining, lifting the Denver Nuggets to a 92-90 victory over the Rockets, who saw star forward Tracy McGrady hospitalized with back spasms at halftime.
Wincing in pain, McGrady leaned forward before collapsing on his back onto the court. He then was placed on a stretcher, wheeled off and taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Denver held a 40-37 edge at the break and a 67-62 lead entering the fourth quarter. The game was tight throughout the final period, with Denver taking a 90-88 lead on a 3-pointer by Earl Boykins with 31 seconds left and Houston tying the contest with 19 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Stromile Swift.
Electing not to call timeout, the Nuggets worked the ball to Anthony in the frontcourt. The third-year forward appeared to get away with a slight push on Houston guard David Wesley before sinking a jumper from the left baseline.
"On the last play, maybe they thought I'd pass it to Earl Watson or Earl Boykins," Anthony said. "I knew I'd get a shot off. David Wesley is 6-foot-something. It was just a matter of what type of shot."
"People don't understand it's a special trait to want the ball in that situation, and then to make the shot," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said the plan was to double-team with Swift, who said he heard the call too late and didn't rotate in time. "We had a number of breakdowns in the last (minute)," Van Gundy said. "We didn't close to (Boykins). We didn't get a defensive rebound. (Anthony) likes going to the baseline and we wanted to double."
Left alone, Wesley could do little more than get a body on the much taller Anthony. "It probably wasn't the best matchup, a 6-foot-8 guy against a 6-foot guy," Wesley said. "I was trying to make him turn his back, and he got a little push off."
"You know what?" Van Gundy said. "It's about winning in this league. It's not about trying - that should be a given." Following a timeout, Houston's Jon Barry threw a high pass to Swift that the big man mishandled under the basket as time expired.
Earl Watson nailed 6-of-7 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 20 points for the Nuggets, who had lost eight of their previous 12 games. Anthony scored 19 points after producing at least 20 in his previous 18 games.
"If we make that extra pass, we'll find the 3-pointer and hit them," Karl said. "At times, we don't trust that extra pass. But you can say the same thing about 25 of the other 30 teams in the league."
Rafer Alston had 24 points and 11 assists for Houston, which has lost seven of nine. Alston scored 18 points after halftime, including 12 in the third quarter to keep the Rockets close.
McGrady's loss was another blow for the Rockets, already without All-Star center Yao Ming (toe surgery) and veteran guard Derek Anderson (right calf). Alston and fellow guard Barry just returned from injury, and starting forward Juwan Howard missed the game due to a one-game suspension. Maintaining his season-long stance, Van Gundy isn't looking for any excuses, nor sympathy from the rest of the NBA.