113 - 115 Final
  for this game

Martin misses late as Nuggets fall to Rockets

Jan 19, 2009 - 11:43 PM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- With Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest sidelined, the Houston Rockets went inside again and again to Yao Ming in the fourth quarter. But they also caught a break in the final seconds.

Kenyon Martin, who scored 22 points, missed two free throws with 2.6 seconds left Monday, allowing the Rockets to hold on for a 115-113 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Yao scored 31 points and Rafer Alston collected 18 and 11 assists for the Rockets, who have won five of their last six games.

Trailing by two in the waning seconds, Denver went to Martin, who was fouled from behind by Brent Barry as his point-blank layup spun out. He then missed the first free throw long before intentionally missing the second, which caromed to Yao as time expired.

"They had a good play there," Yao said of the Nuggets. "Kenyon Martin almost had a 'and one' play. Brent had a quick foul. We were a little bit lucky."

J.R. Smith pulled the Nuggets within one, 114-113, with a deep 3-pointer with 1:05 left. After some empty possessions, Aaron Brooks went 1-of-2 from the line for Houston with six ticks remaining.

"We were on Aaron about missing that free throw," Barry joked. "We'll make him run some sprints tomorrow."

The miss left Houston ahead by only two, forcing the Rockets to defend the entire court on Denver's final possession instead of just the 3-point line.

Smith scored 24 points and Nene grabbed 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who have lost two straight.

Yao scored six points in a row to take Houston from a two-point deficit to a 114-110 lead with 1:41 to play.

"That's just what we do," Barry said of going to Yao more in the fourth quarter. "Obviously, he can make some shots, but he's such an effective foul shooter. That's one luxury we have, relying on him to step to the line and make free throws. We have a big target down there and try to use him as much as possible."

Yao received an uncharacteristic technical foul when he was called for walking with 6:09 to play. Chauncey Billups made the free throw for a 107-103 lead for Denver.

"I was mad the whole game," Yao said. "They put a lot of effort in there. They try to push me away. They try hard. I almost get a second technical. How come I didn't call on that? My teammates really help me. They calm me down."

Yao played only 4 1/2 minutes in the third quarter after committing his fourth foul.

"I sat him in the most of the third quarter because I needed him in the fourth," Houston coach Rick Adelman said.

"I not help the team," Yao said of being on the bench. "I felt like I got some bad calls. That's my opinion. I try to draw the foul on them. They have three big (men) rotate on me. I think I'm more effective if I try to get them out of the game, score in the paint, shoot some free throws."

"He (Yao) was getting grabbed and fouled every time down," Alston said. "You can't call every foul. He stayed calm when we needed him the most. If they play single coverage, we have the advantage. We wanted to attack (Chris) Andersen in the low block."

Yao made 5-of-7 from the foul line in addition to making 13-of-19 from the field.

"He was terrific," Adelman said of Yao's fourth quarter. "He made some real positive plays. I thought he was very aggressive."

The Nuggets were upset by an offensive foul call on Linas Kleiza with seven seconds remaining that wiped out a dunk by Nene that would have given Denver a one-point lead.

"I thought it was a flop," Kleiza said of being called for charging into Houston's Chuck Hayes. "I didn't feel like I hit him."

"I didn't see the replay," Nene said. "It was a tough call, and that was the ballgame."

Hayes, not a scorer, makes a living with his defense and rebounding.

"Well, that's Chuck," Adelman said of Hayes picking up the key offensive foul. "That's what he does. He is the best defensive player we have among our big people."

Nene scored 23 points and defended Yao in the paint, alternating with Andersen and Kleiza on the 7-6 Houston center.

"Our big guys battled Yao all game and got beat up pretty good," Denver coach George Karl said. "He got away with an awful lot."

Denver's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony missed his sixth game in a row with a fractured right hand.

McGrady sat out his 14th game of the season with a sore left knee, while Artest missed his 11th with a bruised right ankle.

The Nuggets led 68-65 at halftime, shooting 65 percent for the first two quarters.

"The first half was a great game if you're a fan of offense," Barry said. "If you're a fan of defense, it was offensive. I don't think anyone was too proud of the way they played on the (defensive) end. It came down to some free throws. It was like the person who was going to score last was going to win."

Alston and Von Wafer, who started in place of McGrady, gave Houston's offense a boost with 18 points each.

"That's been my thing all four years I've been here," Alston said. "When one of those guys is not in the lineup, I'm more aggressive. I'm looking to put some points on the board. It helps to get us established early and it takes a little pressure off Yao."