for this game

McGrady scores, Mutombo boards as Rockets top Nuggets

Mar 3, 2007 - 8:37 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady provided the offense. Veteran Dikembe Mutombo did the dirty work.

McGrady scored 28 points and Mutombo corralled 22 rebounds as the Houston Rockets put together a complete performance, posting a thorough 108-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Juwan Howard scored 18 points for the Rockets, who picked up a much-needed win after suffering back-to-back tough losses against Boston and Toronto on an East Coast swing this week.

"With the scoring duo they have over there, we knew this was going to be a great challenge for us, especially coming off of those two bad losses," McGrady said. "Coming into this environment, this is a big win for us."

Houston shot just 42 percent (41-of-98) from the field but nailed 14-of-30 shots from the arc and outrebounded Denver, 51-40, to secure the victory.

"We wanted to get back to playing Rockets basketball; defending, rebounding, low turnovers, being in attack mode on the offensive side," Howard said. "I think in the first quarter we came out more ready than they did. It was good to see that in the fourth quarter we were able to sustain their pressure and get this victory."

After the Nuggets scored the first two points of the game, it was all Houston. McGrady shot 11-of-30 from the field, including 2-of-6 from the arc. The superstar forward started slow but gained some momentum by scoring on numerous jumpers and fierce drives.

"We had to to win this game," McGrady said. "Play great defense, do all the dirty work, get the loose balls, make the extra effort. All that stuff carried over because we had a great practice (Thursday) and it just carried over to this game. We played with a great deal of energy."

But it was the 40-year-old Mutombo who controlled the interior and became the first 40-year-old to notch a 20-rebound game. The 7-2 center shot just 1-of-5 from the field but cleared space in the paint all night - grabbing eight offensive boards.

"I played one of my worst games against Toronto (Wednesday) with only one rebound in over 20 minutes," Mutombo said. "It pushed me to come out and play hard tonight. I was very prepared to play. We knew that the only way they could beat us is crashing the boards. We took (Denver center Marcus) Camby out of his game."

Denver superstar Allen Iverson still believes his former teammate has a lot left in him.

"Is he 40? He's playing great. What can you say about him?" Iverson said. "They lose a great player like Yao Ming and they have a great back-up center like that. You think because he's 40 years old he might not be as effective as he once was, but he is just as effective and he's smarter as a player. You talk about him being 40 years old, but I think he has many more years to play as long as he stays healthy."

Howard was 9-of-19 from the field and Luther Head scored 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, for the Rockets, who remain in fifth place in the tough Western Conference.

Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points and Iverson added 19 for Denver, which shot 47 percent (37-of-78) en route to having its two-game winning streak snapped.

"Melo (Anthony) and AI (Iverson) have to stop playing against the teeth of the defense," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Trusting each other a little more. Trusting ball movement. I think we had 25 what we call challenge jump shots and we made five, maybe six. You can't win against good teams trying to make jump shots when they're challenged."

Iverson reaggravated a previous elbow injury diving on the floor in the fourth quarter.

"When I dove after a loose ball, I banged it and it swelled up," Iverson said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

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