Denver 121, Houston 113 (F-OT)

HOUSTON, Jan. 20 (AP)-- The Denver Nuggets have survived long enough without Carmelo Anthony. Now, they can't wait to see how their risky "experiment'' works.

Allen Iverson banked in a running 3-pointer in overtime and scored 36 points to rally Denver to a 121-113 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night in the Nuggets' final game without Anthony.

Iverson also had 10 assists, finding Steve Blake in the corner for a 3-pointer with 1:36 left in overtime.

Marcus Camby also had a basket in overtime, scored 12 points and grabbed 22 rebounds for the Nuggets, who went 7-8 in the 15 games Anthony was suspended after an incident in a Dec. 16 game against New York.

"We've survived the 15-game suspension,'' coach George Karl said. "Now, we've got a 15-game experiment before the All-Star break. And I think everyone's excited about it.''

Anthony, who was leading the NBA with 31.6 points per game before his suspension, would've returned for Saturday's game until a snowstorm postponed the Nuggets' Dec. 20 game against Phoenix. He'll be available for Monday's game against Memphis.

"Monday, I get to wake up and it's Christmas,'' Iverson said with a smile. "Obviously, it's going to be a fun day.''

The four-time scoring champion and seven-time All-Star wanted to leave Philadelphia and play for a contender. With Anthony and J.R. Smith back from suspensions, the newly acquired Blake contributing already and Camby playing well, Iverson thinks the Nuggets can make a deep playoff run.

"For me, at this stage of my career, it's just championships. That's all I think about,'' Iverson said. "Regardless of where we're seeded, we get in a seven-game series with somebody, it's going to be hard for somebody to beat us four times.''

Smith, who was suspended 10 games for his role in the New York incident, scored 24 for Denver. He hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter after the Rockets had taken a 90-77 lead.

Blake, acquired a week ago in a trade with Milwaukee, had 12 points, four assists and five rebounds.

"'Melo will add a different dimension to our team and take us to another level,'' Blake said. "It's about time. We are glad he's coming back.''

With Anthony returning, it's up to Karl to figure out how all the pieces fit together.

"We have 15 games before the All-Star break,'' Karl said. "I have a very good feeling that toward the end of those 15 games, you're going to see us playing pretty special basketball.''

The Rockets had won their previous eight home games this season when they reach 100 points.

But Iverson was fouled on a 3-pointer with 2:37 left and hit all three free throws to pull the Nuggets to within 108-103. Camby scored before Iverson swished a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:02 to go to tie the game.

Iverson and Tracy McGrady both missed potential game winners in the final minute. The Nuggets had a chance to win it in the closing seconds of regulation, but Camby missed an unlikely 3-pointer at the buzzer. Camby is 0-for-2 from 3-point range this season.

Both teams struggled at the start of overtime, but Iverson scooped up a loose ball near midcourt, ran to the 3-point line and banked in a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired to give Denver the lead for good.

"That was a momentum shot,'' Iverson said. "A lot of times, you want to hit that first basket to see how the other teams respond.''

McGrady scored 24 and Juwan Howard added 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who've lost three in a row since winning nine of their previous 10.

"We need to get back to doing what got us playing well the last couple of weeks, when we went on that great winning streak,'' McGrady said. "It was just a game where, if we wanted to play like this, we should have stayed at home.''

The Rockets lead the league in scoring defense, but they've allowed at least 100 points in their last four games.

"The last four games defensively, we're not willing to do what it takes to win,'' said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy. "We got exactly what we deserved. They got what they deserved because they worked. And we got what we deserved because we didn't.''

Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who dropped to 9-5 since Yao Ming broke a bone under his right knee.

The Nuggets are 6-8 since acquiring Iverson on Dec. 22. Despite the absence of Anthony - and thanks mostly to Iverson - Denver is still in second place in the Northwest Division.

Iverson had eight points in the first quarter, but the Nuggets trailed 31-25. He came out for a short rest early in the second quarter and Rafer Alston, the man he was guarding, promptly sank back-to-back 3-pointers to push Houston's lead past 10.

Denver trailed 46-33 when Iverson returned with 7:53 left in the half. He was 5-of-6 in the second quarter and had 20 points at the break, but the Rockets led 58-53.

The Rockets led by 13 early in the fourth quarter, but went 11-for-30 in the period to lose for only the fourth time in 43 home games under Van Gundy when they hit 100 points.

Notes: Mutombo reached double-digit rebounds for the 12th time in 13 games. ... The Nuggets won for just the third time in their last 11 trips to Houston. ... McGrady went 9-for-25 after sitting out Wednesday's loss to Phoenix with soreness in his back.

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