Gallinari's 27 lead Nuggets past Rockets, 118-110
DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets knew January could make or break their season.
Thanks to a big fourth quarter, they head into February with momentum and confidence.
Danilo Gallinari scored a game-high 27 points, Kenneth Faried had 19 points and nine rebounds and the Nuggets beat the Houston Rockets 118-110 Wednesday night.
It was Denver's fifth straight win and, just as important, it capped a month in which it went 12-3. After spending most of the first two months on the road they took advantage of 12 home games to start 2013 off right.
"We knew from the beginning of the season January was the most important month of the season," said Gallinari, who tied a career high with four blocked shots. "I thought we responded well."
Denver played 22 of its first 32 away from home, including 17 of the first 23. It was the first time in 28 years a team had that heavy a road schedule to start the season and on Dec. 31 the Nuggets were 17-15.
Now they're 29-18 and flying high.
"We took advantage of the schedule," guard Andre Miller said. "We did our job early maintaining .500 heading into the home stretch in January."
Ty Lawson scored 16 points and Andre Iguodala had 15 points for the Nuggets, who beat Houston for the third time this season and twice in the last week.
Jeremy Lin scored 22 points to lead the Rockets and James Harden and Chandler Parsons added 21 each. The Rockets had won three straight, including a 45-point win at Utah on Monday.
They couldn't maintain the momentum when the Nuggets turned up their defense.
"Defensively, the first 10, 11 minutes of the fourth quarter was probably the reason we won it easy," Denver coach George Karl said. "Our offensive was good but we got confidence in the game when we finally kept them out of the paint, kept them off the boards."
Marcus Morris' 3-pointer with a minute left in the third gave Houston an 85-77 lead but Denver closed out the period strong to trail just 86-83 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Two 3-pointers by Gallinari and some missed shots by the Rockets sparked a 24-3 Nuggets run that gave them a 101-88 lead with 6:54 left. The Rockets missed six straight shots and committed six turnovers, which helped Denver take the big lead.