DENVER (AP) - Carmelo Anthony made a point of driving the lane and taking the ball to hoop. He was rewarded with some easy buckets and plenty of trips to the free throw line.
In his second game back since being away from the team for eight days - five games - to be with his family after the death of his sister, Anthony finished with 33 points and the Nuggets pulled ahead in the late going to beat the Houston Rockets 113-106 Monday night for their fourth consecutive win.
``I was just trying to be aggressive and get to the rack,' said Anthony, who had 11 rebounds and made 13 of 14 free throws to help the Nuggets fend off the Rockets with his eighth game of 30 or more points this season. ``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. They're going to miss some calls. But that is one of the strengths of my game, getting to the free throw line, and tonight I was effective at that.'
Houston's Shane Battier said the free throws shot by the Nuggets - they made 34 of 40 attempts to 15 of 21 for the Rockets - was the difference in a tight game.
``We didn't do a very good job of keeping him off the line,' Battier said. ``It's tough to play on the road and overcome the 40 free throws they had as team. We just have to do a better job on them without fouling them.'
Nene added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Arron Afflalo scored 15 points for Denver.
Houston was led by Luis Scola with 24 points. Kyle Lowry had 21 points and Brad Miller had 11 rebounds and 10 points. The Rockets took 30 shots from 3-point range, one fewer than their season high, and made 13, topped by four for Lowry.
The Nuggets put up only eight shots from beyond the arc and made a season-low three, relying on medium and short-range range jumpers and lay-ups to outscore the Rockets 46-28 in the paint and also beat them at the line.
``We're an attack team, attacking all the time; guys putting on the deck and trying to get to the basket,' said Denver's Chauncey Billups, who had six of his 13 points on free throws. ``That's kind of how we win, getting to the free throw line more than anyone else.'
Patrick Patterson made consecutive jumpers pulling Houston to 90-89 but Denver gained some separation with a 6-0 burst that Ty Lawson started with a driving layup plus, what else, a pair of free throws from Afflalo.
After Nene converted a three-point play with 3:09 left, the Nuggets went in front 103-95.
The Rockets cut it to 107-102 on Lowry's 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Scola but Afflalo hit a turnaround jumper and Kenyon Martin slammed home a dunk at the end of a fastbreak to stretch the Nuggets' advantage to 111-102 with 1:03 remaining.
The Rockets didn't get closer than five points the rest of the way.
``We played hard. We just couldn't keep them off the line,' Houston coach Rick Adelman said.
NOTES: Nuggets F Al Harrington missed a fourth consecutive game because of a dislocated right thumb. Nuggets coach George Karl said before the game he could return Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Houston C Chuck Hayes missed a third consecutuve game with a sprained right ankle. ... The Nuggets made 19 more free throws than the Rockets for the third-biggest discrepancy in made free throws this season. ... Denver improved to 6-1 when making at least 30 free throws. ... Brad Miller had his first double double of the season for Houston.
The Associated Press News Service
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