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Rockets top Nuggets to clinch playoffs
Updated: 2004-04-10 14:26

The Houston Rockets a playoff berth for the first time in five years, defeating the Denver Nuggets 106-103 Friday night behind a season-high 33 points from Steve Francis.

Marcus Camby scored 23 points and Carmelo Anthony had 20 as the Nuggets lost for the sixth straight time in Houston. Denver dropped into a three-way tie with Utah and Portland for eighth place in the Western Conference.

Francis hit four free throws and Cuttino Mobley made a 3-pointer in a span of 1:35 to give Houston its biggest lead, 99-92 with 2:29 to play.

Nene hit a follow shot with 18 seconds left to pull the Nuggets to 104-103, and Jim Jackson's two free throws with 17 seconds to go made it 106-103.

Rodney White missed a desperation 3-point shot with five seconds to play, and Andre Miller missed a 25-footer at the buzzer.

Mobley scored 22 and Jackson 17 for Houston.

Mobley and Francis each had seven points in a 16-5 run in the third quarter that gave Houston its first lead since the opening basket, 73-70.

Francis had 15 third-quarter points as the Rockets led 78-73 going into the final quarter.

Nene scored eight points in the first quarter as the Nuggets led by as many as eight. They hit 63 per cent (12-of-19) of their shots in the quarter and were on top 26-21 entering the second quarter.

Denver expanded the lead to 48-33 with Camby contributing six points in a 16-6 run in the second quarter. Camby had 12 and the Nuggets were shooting 59 per cent (23-of-39) as they led 52-42 at the half.

Notes:@ Houston needed a victory of its own and a loss by Portland to clinch. ... The Rockets' 36 points were their most this season in a third quarter and tied their best in any quarter. ... Houston is 10-0 when shooting 50 per cent from the field and 13-1 when it scores 100 points ... Denver is 9-2 the last 11 times it has scored 100 or more points.

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