DENVER (AP) - Showcasing their depth in stunning fashion, the Denver Nuggets rolled to a season high in points and matched a team record with a 20th consecutive home win despite missing their top two scorers because of injuries.
Corey Brewer had 22 points off the bench and Wilson Chandler scored 21 points in place of the injured Danilo Gallinari, leading the Nuggets past the Houston Rockets, 132-114 Saturday night.
Even Nuggets coach George Karl acknowledged some surprise over the dominant showing by his squad, playing for the first time since losing the sharp-shooting Gallinari to a season-ending left knee injury. Playmaking guard Ty Lawson, the Nuggets' leading scorer, is out indefinitely because of a plantar fascia tear in his right foot.
``It does a little bit,' Karl conceded when asked if the team's showing without Gallinari and Lawson surprised him. ``But my team has been very good about meeting challenges, both schedule-wise and injury-wise and perseverance-wise, and they have a competitive spirit that for a young team is pretty strong.'
Andre Iguodala had 18 points and a season-high 14 assists, while Andre Miller added 11 points and 12 assists as Denver won its fourth in a row overall while improving to a league-best 35-3 at home.
``We have a very deep team and we have a lot of players step up. Basically the whole team stepped up,' Chandler said.
The Nuggets, who also won 20 in a row at home from Jan. 9-March 30, 1985, fueled their fast-break offense with a relentless defense that forced 19 Houston turnovers, leading to 32 points.
``We jump them a lot, trap them a lot, and they turn it over and we get easy baskets,' Brewer said. ``We pride ourselves on playing fast, and when you get into this altitude, you can't play the way we play.'
Said Karl: ``I think we wore them out a little bit.'
Jeremy Lin scored 23 points for the Rockets, who lost their seventh straight to the Nuggets, including all four this season. James Harden added 14 points for Houston, which had its four-game winning streak snapped.
``When you play a team like Denver, who runs like we run, it has to be wise,' Lin said. ``We want to push the pace, but you have to push the pace conservatively, so we don't give them 20 to 50 points in transition. I think we can push the pace without being so loose with the ball.
``We're never going to play a perfect game, but to push the ball up the floor and get to our spots and play without throwing crazy passes, cross-court passes. They have length and taller wings, so we have to be smarter with how we push it.'
Like Denver, Houston also was short-handed, playing without Carlos Delfino (flu) and Chandler Parsons (right calf strain).
But mistakes, rather than a shortage of depth, figured most prominently in the Rockets' loss, coach Kevin McHale said.
``I think throwing the ball to them was a bigger focal point,' he said. ``They had 32 points off our turnovers and 18 points off offensive rebounds. There's no defense for throwing them the ball for a layup. It's hard to overcome.'
Up by eight at the half, the Nuggets opened a 102-83 lead going into the fourth quarter, outscoring the Rockets 13-5 in the last 2:34 of the third in a surge that featured the Nuggets' team depth. Evan Fournier, who had 17 points and was among seven Nuggets in double figures, hit a 3-pointer to start the run. He later drove the lane before passing behind his back to fellow reserve Anthony Randolph for a dunk.
By the time Brewer hit a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play on successive possessions midway through the fourth quarter, the Nuggets had the game in hand with a 118-90 lead. Denver substituted freely the rest of the way.
Chandler hit consecutive 3-pointers in the last 1:41 of the second quarter to give the Nuggets a 64-56 halftime lead.
Trailing 12-4 in the opening minutes, Houston hit four 3-pointers in a row, including consecutive baskets from beyond the arc by Francisco Garcia on the way to a 35-25 lead after the first quarter.
But Denver got back in it by running the floor, going on an 18-4 burst highlighted by a pair of rim-rattling dunks by JaVale McGee off feeds from Fournier to surge back in front.
NOTES: Delfino has missed the past three games because of illness and Houston has been without Parsons, the team's second-leading scorer, for the last two. ... The Nuggets' Lawson has missed the last four games and five of the past six because of the foot injury. ... Iguodala's double-double was his ninth of the season. ... The Nuggets' previous season high was 128 points against Chicago on Feb. 7. ... Denver also had a season-high 40 assists.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved