Houston 90, Denver 86

DENVER, Jan. 12 (AP) -- Shane Battier scored 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and the Houston Rockets held off the Denver Nuggets for a 90-86 win on Friday night.

The Rockets won for the eighth time in their last nine games.

Yakhouba Diawara missed a 3-point attempt with 4.9 seconds remaining in the game and Luther Head sealed the win by making one of two free throws with 2.1 seconds left.

Tracy McGrady added 12 points and 11 assists, and Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 10 rebounds.

Steve Blake scored 13 points - all in the second half - in his Denver debut. Marcus Camby tied his career high with 24 rebounds.

Allen Iverson, who was playing with a sore big toe on his right foot, finished with 28 points. He scored the Nuggets' first 10 points. Iverson played 43 minutes, 43 seconds and is averaging a league-leading 42.7 minutes a game.

J.R. Smith, starting for the first time since returning from a 10-game suspension for his role in a brawl against New York, finished with 11 points. Smith continued to struggle with his shot, hitting just 4 of 17 shots.

In his return Wednesday night against San Antonio, Smith came off the bench and scored 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

Camby played Friday night despite battling an illness. He's now played in three straight games since missing time with a right hand/wrist sprain.

Mutombo, who moved into second place on the career blocks list Wednesday night, had four blocks against his former team Friday night. Mutombo blocked Eduardo Najera's shot in the first quarter and gave his signature finger wiggle to the crowd, who booed him. Mutombo was selected by Denver with the fourth pick of the 1991 draft.

"I'm glad to be back here,'' he said before the game.

Blake didn't practice with the team Friday morning as he waited for the paperwork to go through on the trade that brought him from Milwaukee in exchange for Earl Boykins, Julius Hodge and cash considerations.

"I'm extremely happy,'' Blake said of being with the team. "I think it will be good for me.''

The Nuggets said they wanted Blake because he's a classic point guard. He had six assists.

He was obtained because he doesn't shoot as much as Boykins, leaving more shots for Iverson and Carmelo Anthony once Anthony returns from his suspension. Anthony has three games left until his return against Memphis on Jan 22.

"I don't need shots,'' said Blake, who was 5 of 8 from the floor Friday night. "I'm going to take shots if I'm open.''

Notes: Najera is the only Nuggets player to have played in all 34 games this season. ... The Rockets are 8-2 since losing Yao Ming to a fractured right leg on Dec. 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... The Rockets are holding teams to a league-leading 89.1 points a game.


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