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NBA FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL --- --- --- --- ----- HOUSTON 19 21 27 31 98 DENVER 23 23 29 29 104 FINAL

HIGH SCORERS: HOU - STEVE FRANCIS 27, MATT BULLARD 18, SHANDON ANDERSON 12 DEN - RON MERCER 24, NICK VAN EXEL 21, ANTONIO MCDYESS 18

HIGH REBOUND: HOU - KELVIN CATO 10, STEVE FRANCIS 9 DEN - NICK VAN EXEL 7, ANTONIO MCDYESS 7

HIGH ASSISTS: HOU - STEVE FRANCIS 10, CUTTINO MOBLEY 6 DEN - NICK VAN EXEL 8, TWO PLAYERS WITH 4

ATT: 15,418


Extended Box

HOUSTON (98) AT DENVER (104)

HOUSTON REBOUNDS PLAYER POS MIN FGM-FGA FTM-FTA OFF-DEF-TOT AST PF ST TO PTS ====== === === ======= ======= =========== === == == == ===

BULLARD F 32 7-18 0-0 1 5 6 2 5 2 0 18 WILLIAMS F 29 4-7 0-0 1 2 3 0 1 0 0 8 MILLER C 9 1-3 0-0 4 1 5 1 2 1 0 2 ANDERSON G 37 5-11 2-2 2 3 5 3 2 3 4 12 FRANCIS G 39 9-25 8-8 4 5 9 10 3 2 6 27 THOMAS 25 2-6 3-4 1 2 3 0 2 0 4 7 MOBLEY 30 4-10 1-3 0 7 7 6 3 0 3 10 OLAJUWON 15 2-4 3-4 0 4 4 1 0 1 0 7 DREW 9 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 CATO 15 3-3 1-4 2 8 10 1 2 0 0 7 CURLEY DNP - COACH'S DECISION GRAY DNP - COACH'S DECISION

TOTALS 240 37-88 18-25 15 37 52 25 20 9 18 98 (.420) (.720) TEAM REBS: 9 TOTAL TO: 18(19 PTS)

DENVER REBOUNDS PLAYER POS MIN FGM-FGA FTM-FTA OFF-DEF-TOT AST PF ST TO PTS ====== === === ======= ======= =========== === == == == ===

MCDYESS F 26 8-11 2-4 3 4 7 1 6 0 2 18 POSEY F 15 2-6 2-2 0 2 2 2 1 1 2 6 LAFRENTZ C 33 7-13 1-2 2 4 6 2 5 1 1 15 MERCER G 42 8-18 7-8 1 5 6 4 4 0 1 24 VAN EXEL G 35 6-15 6-7 0 7 7 8 3 2 3 21 MCCLOUD 33 6-9 0-1 1 3 4 4 0 1 0 14 CLARK 24 1-5 0-0 0 3 3 3 1 0 3 2 JONES 13 2-5 0-0 1 1 2 1 2 0 0 4 C HERREN 13 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 3 2 0 2 0 STITH 6 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ALEXANDER DNP - COACH'S DECISION BOWEN DNP - COACH'S DECISION

TOTALS 240 40-85 18-24 8 29 37 28 24 5 14 104 (.471) (.750) TEAM REBS: 11 TOTAL TO: 14(8 PTS)

HOUSTON 19 21 27 31 - 98 DENVER 23 23 29 29 - 104

BLOCKED SHOTS: HOUSTON - CATO 3, OLAJUWON 2, ANDERSON. DENVER - LAFRENTZ 5, MERCER 2, VAN EXEL 2, CLARK, JONES. 3-PT. FIELD GOALS: HOUSTON 6-19 (.316), BULLARD 4-9, WILLIAMS 0-1, FRANCIS 1-4, THOMAS 0-1, MOBLEY 1-4. DENVER 6-13 (.462), POSEY 0-1, MERCER 1-3, VAN EXEL 3-5, MCCLOUD 2-2, CLARK 0-1, C HERREN 0-1. TECHNICALS: HOUSTON - FRANCIS, DENVER - HEAD COACH ISSEL. OFFICIALS: MIKE MATHIS, GARY BENSON, SCOTT FOSTER. A - 15,418. T - 2:05.


Box Score

HOUSTON (98) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Bullard 32 7-18 0-0 1-6 2 5 18 Williams 29 4-7 0-0 1-3 0 1 8 Miller 9 1-3 0-0 4-5 1 2 2 Anderson 37 5-11 2-2 2-5 3 2 12 Francis 39 9-25 8-8 4-9 10 3 27 Thomas 25 2-6 3-4 1-3 0 2 7 Mobley 30 4-10 1-3 0-7 6 3 10 Olajuwon 15 2-4 3-4 0-4 1 0 7 Drew 9 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 Cato 15 3-3 1-4 2-10 1 2 7 Curley DNP - coach's decision Gray DNP - coach's decision _______________________________________________ TOTALS 240 37-88 18-25 15-52 25 20 98 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.420, FT-.720. 3-Point Goals: 6-19, .316 (Bullard 4-9, Williams 0-1, Francis 1-4, Thomas 0-1, Mobley 1-4). Team rebounds: 9. Blocked shots: 6 (Cato 3, Olajuwon 2, Anderson). Turnovers: 18 (Francis 6, Anderson 4, Thomas 4, Mobley 3, Drew). Steals: 9 (Anderson 3, Bullard 2, Francis 2, Miller, Olajuwon).

DENVER (104) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Mcdyess 26 8-11 2-4 3-7 1 6 18 Posey 15 2-6 2-2 0-2 2 1 6 Lafrentz 33 7-13 1-2 2-6 2 5 15 Mercer 42 8-18 7-8 1-6 4 4 24 Van Exel 35 6-15 6-7 0-7 8 3 21 Mccloud 33 6-9 0-1 1-4 4 0 14 Clark 24 1-5 0-0 0-3 3 1 2 Jones 13 2-5 0-0 1-2 1 2 4 C Herren 13 0-2 0-0 0-0 3 2 0 Stith 6 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Alexander DNP - coach's decision Bowen DNP - coach's decision _______________________________________________ TOTALS 240 40-85 18-24 8-37 28 24 104 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.471, FT-.750. 3-Point Goals: 6-13, .462 (Posey 0-1, Mercer 1-3, Van Exel 3-5, Mccloud 2-2, Clark 0-1, C Herren 0-1). Team rebounds: 11. Blocked shots: 11 (Lafrentz 5, Mercer 2, Van Exel 2, Clark, Jones). Turnovers: 14 (Clark 3, Van Exel 3, C Herren 2, Mcdyess 2, Posey 2, Lafrentz, Mercer). Steals: 5 (Van Exel 2, Lafrentz, Mccloud, Posey). ____________________________________________ Houston 19 21 27 31 - 98 Denver 23 23 29 29 - 104 ____________________________________________ Technical fouls: Houston 1 (Francis, 11:54 3rd). Denver 1 (Head Coach Issel, 1:22 3rd). Flagrant fouls: None. A: 15,418. T: 2:05. Officials: Mike Mathis, Gary Benson, Scott Foster.


Game Story

DENVER (Ticker) -- Nick Van Exel scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half as the Denver Nuggets snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Houston Rockets with a 104-98 victory.

Van Exel, playing through a nagging groin injury over the last few weeks, added eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Nuggets to their first win over the Rockets since January 30, 1997. They avenged a 122-115 loss eight days ago.

Future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon moved past Alex English into 10th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list with a free throw late in the third quarter. Olajuwon, already voted one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, finished with seven points, giving him 25,616 in his career.

"That's pretty lofty company," Nuggets coach Dan Issel said. "It shows you can play and shows your longevity. Hakeem's had a great career."

Rockets rookie Steve Francis fell one rebound shy of his second triple-double in as many games, finishing with 27 points, 10 assists and nine boards. The loss was Houston's third-straight since a season-high six-game winning streak.

"Its frustrating to lose three games -- we gave them all away," Francis said. "I didn't shoot the ball well. Shots I normally hit didn't go and I got a lot of traveling calls."

"We made a decision not to trap Francis tonight," Issel said. "Last time we trapped him he hurt us. Tonight we let Nick guard him staight up. He still had 27 points, but he had to take 25 shots to do it."

"Tonight we went man-to-man and tried to let Francis beat us by himself," Van Exel said. "I like man-to-man better."

Van Exel's short jumper gave the Nuggets their largest lead at 95-81 with 5:27 remaining and his basket from the right sideline kept the margin at 101-89 with 2:53 left. But Kelvin Cato's slam capped a 7-1 run that cut the deficit to 102-96 at the 1:30 mark.

Van Exel responded with two free throws in the final minute, ending Houston's chances, as Denver improved to 11-4 when reaching the 100 point plateau.

Ron Mercer scored 24 points and Antonio McDyess added 18 before fouling out for the second straight game. The Nuggets, who won back-to-back games for the first time since December 26-28, shot 47 percent (40-of-85) from the floor, including 6-of-13 from 3-point range.

"Nick and I got a lot of rebounds tonight," Said Mercer, referring to the duo's 14 boards. "A lot of credit goes to Nick for his good defense."

"We couldn't stop them but we didn't give up," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We had seven turnovers. That's what happens when you get up in this altitude -- you lose your sharpness. Playing in Denver in the second game of a back-to-back should be outlawed or they should spot us some oxygen points."

Matt Bullard scored 18 points and Shandon Anderson added 12 for Houston, which shot 42 percent (37-of-88) and held a 52-37 rebounding edge.

Rockets center Anthony Miller, coming off his best performance of the season Thursday night, was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with right knee tendinitis and did not return.

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