DENVER — Forward Kenneth Faried and center Timofey Mozgov did the damage in the first half and guard Randy Foye took the baton in the third quarter.
It was enough, but just barely.
Foye had 30 points and 15 assists, Faried scored 23 points and the Denver Nuggets never trailed in a 123-116 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Mozgov had 22 points for the Nuggets, which clinched a winning record at home after holding off Houston’s late push.
“I didn’t like the way we finished the game, but we had enough of a cushion to hang on,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
The Rockets rallied Sunday to beat the Nuggets in an overtime thriller in Houston, and they nearly did it again with their reserves. Denver led by 22 early in the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer by Houston guard Troy Daniels with 3:01 remaining made it 118-112.
A steal and a layup cut it to four with 2:24 left, but Foye’s high bank shot ended the threat.
“They fought, they tried to make it interesting, but at that time we had given them a huge lead,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
Guard Jeremy Lin had 18 points and forward Chandler Parsons scored 16 for Houston, which had its three-game winning streak stopped after giving up more than 120 points for the third straight game.
“It would be nice if I could sit here and say we were tired, but they did the same thing to us in Houston,” Lin said. “At the end of the day, we have to have a little more pride.”
The Rockets are trying to secure home-court advantage in the first round against either the Portland Trail Blazers or the Golden State Warriors.
Wednesday night’s loss left them two games ahead of the Trail Blazers and three in front of the Warriors with four left.
More important to Houston is getting healthy before the playoffs. Center Dwight Howard and guard Patrick Beverley were held out again because of injuries and then the Rockets got a scare when guard James Harden had to leave in the third quarter with a lower left leg injury.
Harden was hurt when he was fouled on a drive to the basket with 7:48 left in the quarter. He hit the two free throws and then went to the locker room.
He returned late in the third quarter with a wrap around his left calf and shin but sat out the fourth quarter.
“I guess I got kneed in the shin, but it was pretty painful. For a couple of seconds, my leg was numb,” Harden said. “It was very painful. I tried to go out there and play on it, but just get some rest and ice on it.”
Harden said he would have kept playing in a playoff game.
“Yeah, but today was kind of pointless,” he said. “Four more games left and we’re trying to stay at (the fourth seed).”
The Rockets trailed by five with 4:58 left in the third quarter, but Denver, led by Foye, finished the quarter on a 23-11 run to take a 105-88 lead into the fourth quarter.
Foye was 7-for-7 from the field, including four 3-pointers in the third quarter. He had 11 assists in the first half.
“It feels good to go out there tonight and know that I was a huge part of the victory,” Foye said.
It was a strong performance for a Denver team playing out the string for the first time in 11 years.
Without guard Ty Lawson, the team’s leading scorer, the Nuggets were able to jump on top of the Rockets early. Denver held Houston to 26 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter and led by as many as 19.
Lin had all 18 of his points in the second quarter to help the Rockets pull to five at one point, but Mozgov’s dunk gave Denver a 68-58 lead at halftime.
Faried had 19 points and Mozgov had 18 in the first half.
“They came out and just beat the hell out of us. Faried and Mozgov were just running down the floor, posting us up and throwing us out of the way,” McHale said. “We had no answers for them. In the third quarter, we got them somewhat under control and then Foye went crazy.”
NOTES: Houston C Dwight Howard and G Patrick Beverley each missed their seventh straight game. Howard is out with a left ankle sprain and Beverley has a right knee strain. Both are close to returning. … Nuggets G Ty Lawson missed his second game in a row with a left ankle sprain and F Wilson Chandler missed his 10th game in the past 11 because of a strained left groin. Denver coach Brian Shaw said he wants both players to return before the season ends in a week. … The Rockets recalled F Robert Covington and G Troy Daniels from the NBA Development League. Coach Kevin McHale said both would accompany the team to Minnesota for Friday night’s game against the Timberwolves.
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