Kevin Martin scored 37 points and the Houston Rockets took advantage of Nene's absence and Chauncey Billups' early exit to beat the Denver Nuggets 108-103 Monday night despite Carmelo Anthony's 50-point effort that tied his career high.
Martin, who had just eight points in his previous trip to Denver, scored 18 in the decisive third quarter, half of them during a 13-0 run the Rockets used to grab control at 71-56. He started and ended the run with buckets to go with a fast-break basket and a 3-pointer.
Luis Scola chipped in 25 points for the Rockets, who handed Denver its seventh loss in 28 home games.
Anthony scored nine points in the final minute of a furious but futile comeback attempt. His banked 3-pointer made it 105-101 with 20 seconds remaining, but Kyle Lowry sank two foul shots at the other end.
Anthony got the inbounds pass and drove to the basket for the layup that tied his career high set Nov. 27, 2009, against the Knicks. Anthony didn't touch the ball on the final inbounds with 5.3 seconds left.
The Nuggets started the game without Nene (flu), and Billups left after straining his left knee in the first quarter. He was replaced by Ty Lawson, who underwent an MRI on Monday on his strained left knee and scored 19 points.
Asked before tip-off if Lawson had any minute limitations, coach George Karl cracked: "He's on a minute restriction because of Chauncey."
Not after Billups hobbled off to the training room.
Denver nearly lost Kenyon Martin to an ejection, but the officiating crew reversed the call — that he had committed a "hostile act" — after a video review and instead issued a double technical on Martin and Scola.
The two had gotten tangled up near Houston's basket and when the ball was going back the other way, Martin shoved Scola to the floor.
The Rockets were missing guard Aaron Brooks, who was serving a one-game suspension for leaving the court in the fourth quarter of the team's win over Memphis on Saturday. Brooks has been frustrated about his diminished role. He did not travel with the team to Denver.
Rockets coach Rick Adelman said he hadn't spoken with Brooks, but added: "What he did was the completely wrong thing to do. He has to suffer the consequences."
NOTES: Brooks is averaging 12.2 points and 4.1 assists in 28 games. He's missed 24 games with a sprained left ankle. ... Karl said a couple of his assistants also have been hit hard by the flu. ... Houston assistant coach Jack Sikma was whistled for a technical foul in the third quarter while Anthony was at the free throw line.