DENVER -- Dishing the ball to the open man in the first half opened the door to Randy Foye's offensive surge in the second half.
Foye scored 24 of his 30 points in the last 24 minutes, going 7 for 7 from the field in the third quarter, and the Denver Nuggets hung on to beat the Houston Rockets 123-116 on Wednesday night.
Kenneth Faried had 23 points and Timofey Mozgov added 22 for the Nuggets, who beat the Rockets for the first time in three tries this season. Foye also had 15 assists, 11 of them coming in the first half.
"I just think it was a Karma thing, where in the beginning, I had some shots where I could have come off (pick-and-rolls) and pulled up, but I passed it to Kenneth, passed it to Timo, got those guys going," Foye said. "That kind of opened everything up. When I was coming off pick-and-rolls later, they were so concerned with our bigs that I was coming off and knocking them down."
Houston coach Kevin McHale said the Rockets have to play stronger defensively.
"Our defense is bad," he said. "Faried and Mozgov were just running down the floor, posting us up and throwing us out of the way. We had no answers for them. In the third quarter, we got them somewhat under control and then Foye went crazy."
Jeremy Lin led eight Houston players in double figures with 18 points.
Both teams were missing key players heading into the game and the Rockets got a scare when James Harden, leading a fast break, banged his left shin in a collision with Aaron Brooks midway through the third quarter. Fouled on the play, Harden made both free throws and left the game briefly to have the leg tended to before returning to action, though he only played sparingly after the injury.
"I guess I got kneed in the shin but it was pretty painful. For a couple of seconds, my leg was numb," Harden said.
In the postseason, Harden said he would have finished the game.
"But today was kind of pointless. Four more games left and we're trying to stay (in the No. 4 playoff seed)," Harden said.
Houston's Dwight Howard, bothered by a left ankle sprain, did not play for the 10th time in the last 12 games. Denver was without Wilson Chandler (left groin strain) and Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain).
Trailing by 10 at the half, Houston pulled to 94-86 on a jumper by Chandler Parsons late in the third quarter. Foye, though, hit a long jumper, starting an 11-2 run over a 2 1/2-minute stretch that put Denver in front 105-88 heading into the fourth quarter.
Houston made a late push, getting within 118-114 on a 3-pointer by Troy Daniels and a tip-in by Isaiah Canaan with 2:24 left to play. But Foye banked in a jumper and Evan Fournier connected on a 3-pointer in successive Denver possessions to fend off the Rockets' rally.
The Rockets, trailing by as many as 19 points earlier in the game, put together an 8-0 burst to cut the deficit to 58-53 with 1:44 left in the second quarter. Lin and Parsons each had 3-pointers in the stretch.
Faried responded by converting a three-point play, helping Denver rebuild its lead to 68-58 at halftime.
The Rockets are 8-19 when trailing at halftime. ... Houston, which beat the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday, fell to 5-4 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. ... Foye scored 30 or more points for the second time this season. He had a season-high 33 on Jan. 29 against Charlotte.
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DENVER, CO - APRIL 9: Jordan Hamilton #5 of the Houston Rockets looks to pass the ball against the Denver Nuggets...
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
MVP: Was that Randy Foye or Chris Paul out there? Foye had 22 points in the third quarter and 30 overall. And let's not forget his 15 assists with just one turnover, or how he hit a layup late to ice the game.
That was ... too little, too late: With Denver leading 110-88 in the fourth, Kevin McHale waved the white flag by putting in his bench players. But Houston's bench guys hustled and made big shots to cut the deficit to four before running out of time.
X factor: Energy and hustle. Denver had numerous possessions where Kenneth Faried or Timofey Mozgov would just run the length of the court, post up under the basket and dunk. None of the Rockets' bigs could keep up in this track meet.