Anthony hits 38 as Nuggets down Rockets

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DENVER (Reuters) - The NBA's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony came up with his fifth successive 30-point effort to help the Denver Nuggets to a 111-101 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Anthony recorded 38 points and added nine rebounds as Denver (19-7), who controlled the game for long periods, broke clear of a 71-71 tie in the third quarter with an 8-1 run for a bittersweet victory.

Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, who had 15 points, left the game with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter after straining his left groin.

"It seemed like every time I went to the hole, I made something happen," Anthony told reporters. "That's they way I like it, that's the way we like playing. We like attacking the rim. Tonight we took advantage of that."

"We knew his (Billups) groin was hurting," Anthony said. "He didn't want to risk it, I'm pretty sure it's OK. He walked out (of the arena) fine."

Rookie Ty Lawson replaced Billups in the third quarter and he is likely to take his place for the next two matches against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday and the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

"Our schedule is somewhat friendly to us," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "After Memphis, we have a few days (off) that maybe will help him get back for Atlanta (next Wednesday)." J.R. Smith added 21 points and Chris Anderson tallied 11 rebounds as the Nuggets kept their Northwest Division lead over Utah, who beat the New Jersey Nets 108-92.

Aaron Brooks had a team-high 23 points for the Rockets (14-11) with Trevor Ariza claiming 18, after returning from his one-game ban for throwing a forearm in the direction of Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan on Sunday.

Rockets' seven-times All Star Tracy McGrady played less than eight minutes, going scoreless in his second game since returning after a lengthy layoff due to a knee injury.

"I'm happy to be back on the basketball court with my guys but it's just a slow process right now," McGrady said.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Edited by Patrick Johnston)