HOUSTON -- Denver coach George Karl was so pleased with Ty Lawson on Friday night that he actually talked longingly about his point guard committing more turnovers.
Lawson had 22 points and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Nuggets to a 117-105 victory over the Houston Rockets. He only had one turnover, but Karl said more miscues would indicate that Lawson was taking more chances.
"Sometimes, when you get 15 or 20 assists, having three or four turnovers is OK," Karl said. "It's great when he doesn't [commit them]. But we're actually talking to him about being less conservative and more aggressive."
Arron Afflalo scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half and Kenneth Faried added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who shook off a dismal shooting start and ended up with seven players scoring in double figures.
"People were open, and I just gave them the shot, or gave them the good pass," said Lawson, who is in his third year in the NBA.
Lawson said he made riskier passes more often as a prep star at Oak Hill Academy, and he averaged 9.1 assists per game in his senior season. In three seasons at North Carolina, he averaged only 5.8 assists per game.
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"In high school, I was so aggressive," he said. "It's a mode I've got to get back into, which I feel like I'm doing. At UNC, we had so many great players, I had to manage it and make sure everybody was happy. I was more of a manager."
The Rockets, meanwhile, were lamenting all the easy baskets they gave up in the second half. Denver shot 59 percent (27 of 46) and scored 66 points after halftime.
Kevin Martin scored a season-high 35 points, but the Rockets were outrebounded 49-35 and gave up a season-high 33 second-chance points to lose for just the third time in eight games. Denver had 19 offensive rebounds.
"They played harder and they just wanted that game," point guard Kyle Lowry said. "We didn't come out with that type of effort to match their intensity."
Corey Brewer scored 15, Al Harrington had 13 and Kosta Koufos 10 for the Nuggets, who won for the third time in eight games. Karl was not only encouraged by the balanced scoring, but also thought his team tired out the Rockets as the game went on.
"For the first time in a while, I saw us wearing a team down a little bit, the constant attacking, the constant penetration, the constant pounding," Karl said. "It was more of a Nugget win. I haven't seen that in about a month."
Lawson had only five assists in the first half, and Denver shot 32 percent (16 for 50) and trailed 54-51 at the break.
"Some games are going to be like that," Lawson said. "Some games you come out hot."
Afflalo opened the third quarter with two long jumpers, kickstarting a 15-5 spurt. Martin scored 20 points in the first half, and kept Houston close in the third with three 3-pointers. His last 3 of the period sent him over 30 points for the fourth time this season, and put Houston up 78-76.
Afflalo flipped in a hook shot, and the Nuggets built an 82-78 lead heading to the fourth.
Denver continued to shoot well in the final quarter, helping it hold on to a slim lead. Lawson hit a floater in the lane, then added a free throw with 4:22 left to put Denver up 100-94.
Lawson and Miller then scored on drives, and Harrington sank a 3-pointer from the corner to give Denver its biggest lead to that point, at 107-97.
The Rockets were outscored 52-36 in the paint and generated only seven fast-break points.
The Rockets have been outrebounded in nine consecutive games. ... Houston F Luis Scola briefly left the game in the first quarter after a collision with Afflalo. He took five stitches in his lower lip and returned about seven minutes later. ... Houston F Patrick Patterson fell hard on his back trying to block Harrington's drive midway through the final quarter, and stayed face down on the court for several minutes as Houston's training staff surrounded him. He eventually left the floor on his own power. ... Denver C Timofey Mozgov stepped into a cameraman on an inbound play, sprained his left ankle and left with 5:26 left in the third quarter. Denver was already playing without Nene (left calf strain), Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain) and Danilo Gallinari (left ankle sprain). Karl had "a good feeling" that Fernandez would play in San Antonio on Sunday. Karl said Nene and Gallinari would be re-evaluated during Saturday's scheduled practice.