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Saturday March 3, 2012 0:01 AM

Nuggets Race Past Rockets

Denver's dominance down low and in transition dooms Houston to 117-105 defeat

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Luis Scola needed five stitches to fix a bloodied lip. Patrick Patterson frighteningly was forced from the game after falling flat on his back.

Yet neither player’s physical pain came close to matching the collective mental anguish of the Rockets after receiving a thorough 117-105 thumping at the hands of the Denver Nuggets Friday night.

One game after Houston’s players and coaches had chastised themselves for getting outworked against Utah, Denver provided the Rockets with an undesirable sense of déjà vu, running over, around and through whatever Houston sent their way. The Nuggets pounded the Rockets on the offensive boards, and when they weren’t delivering body blows with their ground-and-pound attack, they flew past Houston’s defenders in transition, repeatedly beating the Rockets down the floor for layups and dunks.

The entire experience was especially painful for Houston Head Coach Kevin McHale, who watched his club give up an opponent season-high 33 second-chance points and a bevy of fastbreak buckets mere hours after preaching the importance of controlling Denver’s transition attack and relentlessness on the boards.

“They threw it up there, then they threw us out of the way and went and got it – that usually leads to paint points,” said a visibly frustrated McHale. “You’ve got a guy in front of you, he beats you, help comes, they drop it off – that leads to paint points.

“It’s effort, it’s technique, it’s want-to. As I said before the game, it’s a myriad of things we’re not doing right now. It’s very disappointing. Two games in a row we’ve been out-toughed.”

Yet for all they did wrong Friday night, the Rockets still found themselves with a chance to steal a victory in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Kevin Martin was instrumental in keeping Houston close through the first three periods, scoring 32 of his game-high 35 points during the game’s opening 36 minutes. And Kyle Lowry, saddled with foul trouble that greatly limited his playing time in the third quarter, broke out in a big way in the fourth, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the final period.

But neither they, nor anyone else on the Rockets’ roster, had any sort of answer for Denver’s domination of the painted area. Despite shooting just 32 percent from the field in the first half, the Nuggets never lost sight of Houston thanks to their ferociousness on the offensive glass. And when Denver was able to pair that interior domination with an unleashing of its explosive transition attack in the second half, the resulting potency of that mix proved far too lethal for the Rockets to handle.

With Ty Lawson (22 points, career-high 15 assists) serving as the Nuggets’ trigger man and Kenneth Faried (11 rebounds, five offensive) a holy terror on the boards, Denver did its damage with ample amounts of speed and power. Make no mistake, the Nuggets did what they had to do to win this game and were deserving of the end result. But what bothered the Rockets much more than suffering their second straight defeat was an unshakable feeling that Friday night’s contest marked the second straight time they had been outworked and outcompeted.  

“We were flat from the start,” said Martin. “We just weren’t mentally prepared throughout the whole game. That was the biggest reason why we let this one slip away tonight. We just didn’t have the mental toughness to do something basic like getting back and not letting Corey Brewer have 10 wide open dunks. That cost us the game.

“It’s something you can’t explain. If you want to be in the playoffs, you just have to have better focus and want it more. We didn’t have it tonight.”

And 1s: Patrick Patterson declared himself fine after experiencing a frightening fourth quarter fall that brought a hush to Toyota Center during a tense couple of minutes. The incident took place while Patterson was attempting to block a shot, as he got his legs tangled up with a Nuggets player while in midair. The second-year forward landed hard directly on his back and it wasn’t until a few minutes later that he was able to walk to the bench under his own power. After heading to the locker room for further examination, Patterson returned to the game with a couple minutes left, appearing none the worse for wear after his scary spill.

“It was all pain, no numbness,” he said. “I could still move my legs, move my hands. I was scared for awhile because as I was falling I was scared I was going to land on my neck, so I got lucky with that one. I landed on my back and way just laying on the ground for a little while but managed to get up. I was trying to get up (sooner) but the training staff said, ‘take your time; don’t rush it.’”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(on Denver’s domination down low): They threw it up there, then they threw us out of the way and went and got it – that usually leads to paint points. You’ve got a guy in front of you, he beats you, help comes, they drop it off – that leads to paint points.

(defensive boards all effort or more than that?): It’s effort, it’s technique, it’s want-to. As I said before the game, it’s a myriad of things we’re not doing right now. It’s very disappointing. Two games in a row we’ve been out-toughed.

That team right there, we’re ahead of them in the standings. That’s like a double-win (for Denver). Whoever won this game, that’s like winning two. We talked about all that stuff; we talked about Faried and Mozgov and Koufos; about how you have to worry about those guys on the boards – and those three had 14 of their offensive rebounds. You can’t let them do what they did.

KYLE LOWRY

They outworked us tonight. They had guys out there who were way more hungry than we were. They played harder and they just really wanted that game and we didn’t come with the effort to match their intensity.

(On the Nuggets scoring 35 points in the fourth quarter) “When you get second-chance points in layups, your confidence is going to grow and shots are going to fall with professional basketball players. They (Denver) have got good shooters and they were going to hit some shots, but them getting that confidence that they are going to get the rebound and second-chance, they go out there and just shoot free flowing shots and they started going in, in the fourth (quarter).”

CHANDLER PARSONS

It’s tough. There’s no excuses. We should never play that way and we should never get outworked like that. We should never have guys beat us to the floor for loose balls. It’s just all about effort and our effort has been awful the last two games and it’s something that we need to correct individually.

I think each person just has to man-up and play harder and more aggressive. We have been outrebounded every game, we’re not playing tough so we just need to come with it and play really hard.

LUIS SCOLA

(rebounding woes): This same team was outrebounding every team in the NBA three weeks ago. We have proved that we can do it so we just have to do it again.

PATRICK PATTERSON

(on his fall): It was all pain, no numbness. I could still move my legs, move my hands. I was scared for awhile because as I was falling I was scared I was going to land on my neck, so I got lucky with that one. I landed on my back and way just laying on the ground for a little while but managed to get up. I was trying to get up (sooner) but the training staff said, ‘take your time; don’t rush it.’

KEVIN MARTIN

We were flat from the start. We just weren’t mentally prepared throughout the whole game. That was the biggest reason why we let this one slip away tonight. We just didn’t have the mental toughness to do something basic like getting back and not letting Corey Brewer have 10 wide open dunks. That cost us the game.

(why not mentally prepared after wanting to bounce back so badly following the Utah loss?): It’s something you can’t explain. If you want to be in the playoffs, you just have to have better focus and want it more. We didn’t have it tonight.

DENVER NUGGETS COACH GEORGE KARL

(On the team’s play) “Our big guys did another fantastic job rebounding. We’re not even in the game if we don’t rebound the ball in the first half.  As the game went on I saw our team for the first time really attacking the other team. Our penetration and constant pounding and so it was more of a Nugget type win   tonight. I haven’t seen that same type win in about a month. Corey Brewer had a great stretch in the second half. We had a lot of big plays where we got a lot of baskets in the second half. Down the stretch we got a lot of big baskets and Ty (Lawson) was really dominant for us.”

AARON AFFLALO

(On his play in the second half) “I just got into a little bit of foul trouble in the first half. I tried to keep pushing through it and be there for the team in the second half. I caught a rhythm in the third quarter and was able to stay on the court.”

TY LAWSON

(On the game) “I was just trying to be aggressive. People were open and I just gave them the shot with a good pass. I tried to take care of the ball most of the time but today I was on. Our guys hit a lot of shots. Coach always wants me to be more aggressive and that is what I am trying to do the second half of the season. It was a big victory and an overall team victory.”

ANDRE MILLER

(On the key to their fourth quarter) “Rebounding…and we were able to force a few turnovers and get some easy baskets and get to the free throw line. We tried to keep Houston out of a rhythm. Kevin Martin really had it going. And we tried to get the loose balls, offensive rebounds and extra plays.”

NOTES

The Rockets suffered a 117-105 loss to the Nuggets tonight, snapping Houston’s three-game winning streak over Denver. Houston also saw its four-game home winning streak come to an end.

Denver grabbed a 49-35 edge off the glass tonight. Despite the loss, Houston still owns a 5-4 record over its last nine outings despite losing the battle of the boards in a season-long nine straight games (2/14/12-3/2/12). The last time the Rockets were outrebounded in nine consecutive contests in a single season was nine in a row from 3/15/10-3/30/10.

Houston was again 10-of-29 (.345) from beyond the arc tonight. The Rockets are now 3-5 this season when reaching double-digits from 3-point range. Houston also went 10-of-19 (.526) from downtown in a 99-90 win at Denver (2/6/12).

The Nuggets placed seven players in double-figure scoring tonight. The last opponent with seven-plus players in double-digit scoring was eight San Antonio Spurs at Houston (3/12/11).

The Rockets made just one steal tonight as the Nuggets set Houston’s opponent season-low of six turnovers. The Rockets, who have twice gone without a steal in a game, marked the 10th time in team history to recorded just one theft in game.

Denver set Houston’s opponent season highs of 33 second-chance point (33-17), 97 field goal attempts (43-97 FG) and 35 free throw attempts (23-35 FT). The Nuggets, who also went 19-of-33 from the stripe at Denver (2/6/12), finished the 2010-11 four-game series with Houston 126-of-160 (.788) from the free throw line (40 attempts per contest).

Kevin Martin finished with a season-high 35 points (10-15 FG, 6-9 3FG, 9-10 FT) tonight, including 20 points (5-8 FG, 2-3 3FG, 8-9 FT) in the first half alone. It marked Martin’s fifth 20-point half of the season. His previous season best was 32 points (12-27 FG) vs. New Orleans (1/19/12) and 32 points (10-18 FG, 4-7 3FG, 8-8 FT) vs. Oklahoma City (2/15/12).

Kyle Lowry scored 15 of his 17 points (3-8 3FG, 6-6 FT) in the fourth quarter tonight, adding seven rebounds and five assists. Lowry now has 10 or more points in each of his last 14 outings (2/4/12-3/2/12).

 Luis Scola notched 13 points (6-11 FG) and four rebounds tonight. Scola, who took five stitches in his lower lip after a first-quarter collision, had his streak of three consecutive double-doubles snapped.

Patrick Patterson pulled down a season-high 10 rebounds and equaled his career-high four blocked shots (four on 3/18/11 vs. Boston) tonight. Patterson led the Rockets with his previous season best of nine boards in a 97-93 win vs. Memphis (2/20/12).

Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 22 points (6-15 FG, 9-12 FT), 15 assists and seven rebounds tonight. Lawson now owns nine career double-doubles (Denver record: 6-3) and 11 career games with 10-plus assists (Nuggets record: 8-3). He becomes the first Houston opponent with 15 dimes in a game since New Jersey’s Deron Williams (17) at Houston (2/26/11).

Kenneth Faried posted 16 points (7-12 FG), 11 rebounds (6 offensive), two steals and two blocks tonight. Faried entered this game averaging 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds over his first nine starts this season.

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