Rockets-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

With two starters nursing injuries, the Houston Rockets needed huge performances from their replacements to survive an overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets last weekend.

The only suspense in their last game was how many points they'd score.

As they prepare for a rematch in Denver, the Rockets hope to continue their scoring surge while possibly getting Dwight Howard back Wednesday night against the struggling Nuggets.

Houston (52-25) has lit up the scoreboard even though Howard has missed nine of the last 11 games due to a sprained left ankle and point guard Patrick Beverley remains out indefinitely after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee.

The Rockets have scored 116.6 points per game - 9.0 more than their NBA second-best season average - over their last 11 with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik filling in.

Lin finished with 19 points and five assists Sunday, while Asik scored a season-best 18 with a career high-tying 23 rebounds as Houston blew a 17-point halftime lead before pulling out a 130-125 win over Denver (33-44).

After setting a franchise record with a 47-point second quarter in that contest, the Rockets broke that mark with a 49-point third quarter in Tuesday's 145-130 romp over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

''We had it going,'' said guard James Harden, who had 33 points and 12 assists. ''We still gave up too many points, more than we wanted to, but we still got it going."

Terrence Jones scored 33 and Chandler Parsons added 19 to help the Rockets capture their third straight win.

Harden has stepped up with 31.3 points and 7.9 assists per game while hitting 41.4 percent from 3-point range over his last nine, though he's shot just 32.7 percent and missed 14 of 19 from beyond the arc in his last three versus the Nuggets.

Now Houston could be regaining Howard, who will likely be a game-time decision. The eight-time All-Star led the way with 25 points while making 17 of 24 from the foul line in a 122-111 home win over Denver on Nov. 16.

After dropping the previous seven meetings, the Rockets have averaged 126.0 points while allowing 118.0 in two wins this season. They're close to locking up the Western Conference's fourth seed, which would give them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The injury-ravaged Nuggets, who will miss the postseason for the first time since 2002-03, have allowed 112.7 points per game and 41.2 percent shooting from 3-point range while dropping six of seven.

Evan Fournier had 26 points and hit six 3-pointers Sunday, while former Houston guard Aaron Brooks finished with 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds. Brooks was traded to Denver on Feb. 20 for Jordan Hamilton.

''There will be a lot of teaching points and things we can learn when we look at film,'' said coach Brian Shaw, whose club let an 11-point lead midway through the fourth quarter slip away.

Quincy Miller added a career-high 19 points and Kenneth Faried added 16 with 13 rebounds for Denver, which continues to play without Wilson Chandler (groin), J.J. Hickson (knee), Ty Lawson (ankle) and Nate Robinson (knee).

The Nuggets, who went 14 for 31 from beyond the arc, will try again to take advantage of a Houston team that has given up a total of 255 points and 28 3-pointers in its last two games.

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