for this game

Iverson leads Nuggets closer to playoffs

Apr 14, 2008 - 4:58 AM By Blake Redabaugh PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The Denver Nuggets are one step closer to clinching the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Allen Iverson collected 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and J.R. Smith added 23 points as the Nuggets defeated the Houston Rockets, 111-94, on Sunday night at the Pepsi Center.

Linas Kleiza scored 18 points for the Nuggets (49-32), who moved one-half game ahead of the Golden State Warriors (48-32) for the eighth seed in the West and cut their magic number to one.

To miss the playoffs, Denver would have to lose at home to Memphis on Wednesday and have Golden State win its two remaining games. The Warriors play at Phoenix on Monday and at home against Seattle on Wednesday.

"We play real tough when our backs are against the wall," Iverson said. "We had to have a win by any means. We did everything it took from the beginning of the game to the end."

Smith came off the bench to ignite the Nuggets during a 15-3 surge which bridged the first and second quarters. Smith hit three 3-pointers during the run as the Nuggets took a 36-21 lead with 9:10 remaining in the second quarter.

Denver, which has won 10 of its last 11 at home, built its lead up to 61-44 at the end of the half as it held Houston to 14-of-43 shooting.

"Defensively, this is the best game we've had (all season)," said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, who tied a season low with 11 points. "We did a good job containing everybody out there."

"Our offense was created by our defense tonight," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "When my team's playing harder than the opponent and they play with intensity that is admirable, they are hard to beat."

The Rockets failed to make a comeback in the second half as the Nuggets never let them get within single digits.

Luther Head scored 19 points for the Rockets, who were without forward Shane Battier for the second straight game due to a bruised left foot.

"It was a very poor game on our part," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We haven't had a game like that in a long time."

"We played like it really didn't matter," said Rockets forward Tracy McGrady, who finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. "At this point in the season, we've still got to bring it every night and tonight we just had too many mental errors."

Houston (54-26), which had a five-game winning streak snapped, fell one game behind the New Orleans Hornets (55-25) for the Southwest Division crown.

They are now tied with the San Antonio Spurs (54-26) for the No. 3 seed - 1 1/2 games back of the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (56-25). The Rockets finish the season at Utah on Monday and vs. the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

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