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Tuesday January 4, 2011 0:38 AM

Rockets Encounter Rocky Road In Denver

Nuggets' Anthony scores 33, powers Denver to 113-106 victory over Houston

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON -The effort and work rate, mysteriously lacking the night before, were there. So, too, were the 3-point shooting and superior ball movement.

What the Rockets could not do, however, was defend without fouling. Time after time, Houston found itself desperate for a defensive stop and time after time the Denver Nuggets ended up at the free throw line – 40 times in all.

The end result of that parade to the charity stripe: a 113-106 Nuggets’ victory, as Denver pulled away down the stretch to send Houston to its second straight defeat to begin the new year.

That Denver had so much success getting to the line was not unusual – they are, after all, the NBA leaders in free throw attempts per game, averaging more than 30 trips per contest. And with Carmelo Anthony bulling his way to the basket again and again en route to a game-high 33 points – a total boosted in no small part by his 13-of-14 performance at the charity stripe – Houston had its hands full from the start.

Still, Monday’s loss was a bitter pill to swallow for a Rockets team that came in highly motivated after succumbing to a substandard effort in Portland the night before.

Houston kept the Nuggets well within its sights for the vast majority of the contest. The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 81 and with 4:31 to go the Rockets trailed by just a mere three points. But Denver promptly embarked upon a 9-2 run buoyed by – what else? – seven made free throws to put the Rockets in a hole from which they could not recover.

The final score sullied big efforts from starters Luis Scola (24 points, 7 rebounds, assists) and Kyle Lowry (21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists), in addition to strong showings from several members of Houston’s second unit. Brad Miller (10 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) recorded his first double-double as a member of the Rockets, while Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger combined for 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the floor. Perhaps most impressive of all: Houston’s bench went 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.

In fact, it was the Rockets’ scintillating shooting from the 3-point line that went a long way in helping the club keep things close in spite of the disparity at the free throw line. Houston was 13-of-30 (43.3%) from downtown on the evening, while Denver hit just three of its 8 attempts from distance.

But the Rockets could only muster a single 3-point make in the final frame and that untimely drought doomed Houston to its first defeat of the season duing which the club had made 10 or more 3s in a contest. The Rockets were previously 9-0 in such affairs.

“We played hard,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “We just couldn’t keep them off the line and we couldn’t get to the line.

“We we’re shooting the 3s because they were there. We tried to get to the basket but we weren’t going to get anything there. We took the shots that were there and they were open shots.”

Open though those 3-point looks may have been, they could not compare to the litany of uncontested shots Denver created 15 feet away from the basket. The free throw line has often been a friend to Houston this season, especially with specialists like Kevin Martin on board. But Monday night the charity stripe belonged to Denver. And, ultimately, so too did the game.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN
“We played hard. Just couldn’t keep them off the line couldn’t get to the line. We didn’t play that many minutes last night. We we’re shooting the threes because they were there. We tried to get to the basket but we weren’t going to get anything there. We took the shots that were there and they were open shots.

I think Patrick(Patterson) stepped right in and played well with Brad (Miller) I think tonight was a much better effort than it was last night. That’s how we have to play when were on the road or at home.”

BRAD MILLER
(Comment on team effort) “Well we had a bad game last night in Portland and we just didn’t play well as a team. Coming in, it is tough month for us and we had to step it up and play a little bit better.

(Double-double)I don’t really care about my personal playing anymore. I’m past that. I’m just trying to help the team get some wins, help the young guys get their confidence, they are going to be around a lot longer than I am at this point, I just enjoy trying to make them get better.”

LUIS SCOLA
(Team performance) “We’re playing well, I mean, we were right there in the game and then they just closed it out better than us.

(High scorer for Houston) “I stayed confident toward the end of the game. It wasn’t a good start for me, I was maybe hitting more shots at the end.”

GEORGE KARL
(Arron Afflalo) “He had a big second half, defensively he doesn’t get enough recognition. Kevin Martin had a miserable night and I think a lot of that has to do with Arron’s talent. I thought he was really pivotal in the second half getting us into an offensive rhythm. I thought Gary Forbes’ five minutes were fantastic, we kind of had a wild card there. I thought that down the stretch we were a very smart team and it’s a solid win against a team that has been playing very, very well.

(Stopping Houston’s offensive runs) I didn’t think our defensive intensity was 100 percent. At moments I think we were kind of feeling the game out and I didn’t think our shot challenges were very aggressive. They definitely had a roll there for about 5 maybe 6 minutes and it scares you a little bit.

(Melo)I thought he was the best player on the court. Thought he was the hardest guy to cover on the court. Kind of flipped back to the good stuff, make a few more shots but if you add in the 14 free throws he got then it’s a pretty good night.”

CARMELO ANTHONY
(Free throw difference) “I was just trying to be aggressive tonight and get to the rack, sometimes they called it, sometimes they didn’t. You know, when you shoot 14 free throws it’s hard for them to call every time you get fouled so close, they are going to miss some calls. That is one of the strengths of my game is getting to the free throw line, tonight I was effective at that.”

(Four straight wins) “We’re getting guys back and getting guys healthy. That’s been key for us all year. We had different lineups all season. And now it seems like we’re going to have a steady lineup with Al hopefully coming back against the Clippers. We’ve got our whole team back and that is something we have been looking forward to all season.”

CHAUNCEY BILLUPS
(Arron’s contributions) “We just feed off his defensive energy. He pressures guys and is always making the right rotations at all times and just plays the right way and we feed off of that. A lot of people talk about how he’s playing offensively and how good he can shoot it. He’s playing off myself, Nene and Melo really well. Defensively is where he makes his biggest impact for us.

(Arron’s defense) Kevin Martin almost shoots 10 free throws a game and he only shot one today and that was on a technical. Thought that was just Arron being locked in and focused. And knowing how he likes to draw fouls, and that’s key for stopping a guy who is a 20 plus points per game scorer and you hold him down to single digits that’s impressive.”

(Free throw difference) “We’re an attack team, we’re attacking at all times. Guys putting on the deck and trying to get to the basket. A lot of times when our team gets to the bonus, with six minutes left it is tough to play against us, because we have so many guys that can attack and knock down free throws. That’s kind of how we win, is getting to the free throw line more than anyone else.

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