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Gallinari's 27 lead Nuggets past Rockets, 118-110

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Gallinari's 27 lead Nuggets past Rockets, 118-110

DENVER (AP) The Denver Nuggets knew January could make or break their season.

Thanks to a big fourth quarter, they head into February with momentum and confidence.

Danilo Gallinari scored a game-high 27 points, Kenneth Faried had 19 points and nine rebounds and the Nuggets beat the Houston Rockets 118-110 Wednesday night.

It was Denver's fifth straight win and, just as important, it capped a month in which it went 12-3. After spending most of the first two months on the road they took advantage of 12 home games to start 2013 off right.

``We knew from the beginning of the season January was the most important month of the season,'' said Gallinari, who tied a career high with four blocked shots. ``I thought we responded well.''

Denver played 22 of its first 32 away from home, including 17 of the first 23. It was the first time in 28 years a team had that heavy a road schedule to start the season and on Dec. 31 the Nuggets were 17-15.

Now they're 29-18 and flying high.

``We took advantage of the schedule,'' guard Andre Miller said. ``We did our job early maintaining .500 heading into the home stretch in January.''

Ty Lawson scored 16 points and Andre Iguodala had 15 points for the Nuggets, who beat Houston for the third time this season and twice in the last week.

Jeremy Lin scored 22 points to lead the Rockets and James Harden and Chandler Parsons added 21 each. The Rockets had won three straight, including a 45-point win at Utah on Monday.

They couldn't maintain the momentum when the Nuggets turned up their defense.

``Defensively, the first 10, 11 minutes of the fourth quarter was probably the reason we won it easy,'' Denver coach George Karl said. ``Our offensive was good but we got confidence in the game when we finally kept them out of the paint, kept them off the boards.''

Marcus Morris' 3-pointer with a minute left in the third gave Houston an 85-77 lead but Denver closed out the period strong to trail just 86-83 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Two 3-pointers by Gallinari and some missed shots by the Rockets sparked a 24-3 Nuggets run that gave them a 101-88 lead with 6:54 left. The Rockets missed six straight shots and committed six turnovers, which helped Denver take the big lead.

Houston had 22 turnovers overall.

``Our turnovers caught up to us. Our defensive deficiencies caught up to us,'' Lin said. ``They hit tough shots. They had eight 3-pointers the whole game and they probably had four or five in the fourth quarter. They just got hot and we were trying to play uphill and come back from there on out.''

Houston clawed back as a jumper by Lin and two 3s by Carlos Delfino trimmed the lead to 101-95 with 4:55 left. Gallinari answered with a corner 3three to make it a nine-point margin.

``Couple of calls and they got to the foul line. They got the momentum from there,'' Harden said. ``It's tough. They are so athletic. They get out in transition. Their point guard pushed the ball, they got so many guys who can score. Gallinari hit a couple of big 3s, too.''

The Rockets went on a 7-2 run to pull to 106-102 with 2:55 left, but consecutive buckets by Andre Miller and Lawson made it an eight-point game and Denver closed it out.

``Gallinari made a couple of tough 3s and then we decided we were going to do it on our own,'' Houston coach Kevin McHale said. ``It snowballed a little bit and they got ahead. We had to fight back. You never want to lose. You especially don't want to lose when it's self-inflicted, and we did.''

The Rockets led by as eight in the third quarter. Toney Douglas helped build the lead with a steal and layup on two straight Denver possessions to help Houston build the lead.

The score was close throughout the first half with neither team leading by more than four. Harden led the way for the Rockets with 13 and Iguodala had 12 for the Nuggets.

Both teams got to the line in first two quarters, shooting a combined 38 free throws.

NOTES: The 12 wins tied for the most ever in January for Denver. It was last done a year ago. ... Faried was named to the roster for the Rising Stars Challenge at All Star Weekend in Houston. Faried is averaging 11.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 46 starts this season ... The Rockets have averaged 20.7 turnovers in the first three games against Denver. Harden committed 19 of their 62 turnovers. ... The Nuggets reassigned G Julyan Stone to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Developmental League.

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In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

Bryce Love hopes he'll have the opportunity to carry many footballs in his NFL career. But this past weekend, the running back picked up something that'll be just as, if not more, valuable than the attempts he'll be getting on Sundays.

How's a college diploma from Stanford sound? Pretty solid, right?

Oh, how about a college diploma from Stanford in human biology? Yeah, probably something worth hanging up on the ol' fridge, huh?

Well, that very hard-earned and impressive degree is what Love is now in possession of:

Drafted by the Redskins in late-April and walking across the stage at Stanford in mid-June, Love is doing well for himself recently. He passed up the chance to enter the draft early to ensure he graduated, and now he has.

His college GPA isn't known, but once you find out his high school GPA was 4.5 (that's apparently possible) and add that to the fact that he was able to finish up school out west while also churning up yards for the Cardinal, you can imagine it was very, very good. And if his yards-per-carry average as a pro matches or exceeds it, then the Redskins will be thrilled.

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.

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