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Old 12-13-2014, 11:40 PM   #1
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Howard's return, Harden's triple-double lead Houston Rockets over Denver Nuggets, 108

Dwight Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds in his return from injury, James Harden had a triple-double, and the Houston Rockets overcame an early deficit for a 108-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Howard, who missed the previous 11 games with a strained right knee, also reached a milestone, eclipsing 10,000 rebounds in his career.

Harden had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his third career triple-double. He almost didn't get it, grabbing his 10th rebound with less than a second left in the game.

Ty Lawson had 19 points and 12 assists, and Darrell Arthur had a season-high 20 points for the Nuggets.

Houston trailed by as many 14 points in the first half before taking the lead with a big second quarter and keeping it the rest of the game. They led by seven points at the beginning of the fourth quarter and had extended the lead to 92-77 midway through the period.

Coach Kevin McHale was a bit worried about how Howard would do on Saturday after last playing on Nov. 17. It was apparent there was no reason for concern with the All-Star center's dominant performance. McHale planned to limit him to 20-24 minutes, but kept him in for almost 30.

Howard also had three blocks, two assists and a steal.

About the only thing that slowed him down was a nose he got early in the third quarter. He played several minutes after that with blood smeared on his crisp white jersey just above the 'R' in Rockets and white paper stuffed up his right nostril.

He went to the bench with about 4 minutes left in the quarter and changed into a fresh jersey.

JJ Hickson scored the first basket of the second half to get the Nuggets within four points. But the Rockets scored the next eight points, thanks to 3s by Harden and Trevor Ariza, to make it 62-50 with 10 minutes left in the third.

Howard made it 72-59 with a layup with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Denver outscored Houston 14-8 the rest of the quarter to cut the lead to 80-73 entering the fourth. Arthur had a nice sequence in that spurt with a dunk and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions.

Houston trailed by 14 points about eight minutes before halftime when they went on a 21-4 run to take a 47-44 lead with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Donatas Motiejunas got things going in that span, scoring the first nine points of the run. Howard helped out, too. He blocked a shot by Timofey Mozgov and capped the run when with a two-handed slam on a behind-the-back alley-oop from Harden.

The Rockets led 54-48 at halftime.

Denver led by one in the first quarter before using a 13-3 run to push the lead to 32-21 entering the second quarter. Lawson scored five straight points to start the spurt.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Lawson is the first player to have 10 or more assists against Houston this season. ... Danilo Gallinari (bruised knee) and JaVale McGee (leg strain) were out for Denver.

Rockets: Motiejunas added a career-high 25 points. ... Francisco Garcia (strained right calf/Achilles), Isaiah Canaan (sprained left ankle), Terrence Jones (nerve inflammation in left leg) and Kostas Papanikolaou (strained right knee) all sat out for Houston.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Host San Antonio on Sunday.

Rockets: At Denver on Wednesday.



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