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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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Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

A few years ago, the hit would've been celebrated. Last year, it would've gone down as a drive-ending sack.

But in 2018, with the NFL's new emphasis on defenders not being able to fall on quarterbacks with a lot of force, Clay Matthews' very normal-looking third quarter takedown of Alex Smith was ruled roughing the passer.

As a result, the Redskins got to stay on the field. And for the second week in a row, Matthews found himself at the center of a very controversial call.

"Unfortunately, this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't like and I think they're getting soft," the veteran said after Washington's 31-17 win over Green Bay. "I've been playing this game for over 20 years and that's how you tackle."

Matthews has a point. In a sport that's concerned about dirty or dangerous collisions, this looks like a flawless hit:

But the roughing the passer flag was tossed not because of where Matthews hit Smith or when he hit him. The issue, in the eyes of the officials, is the way he finished the sequence.

"I had judged that the defender landed on the quarterback when he was tackling him with most or all of his body weight and that's not allowed," referre Craig Wrolstad said following the contest. "That was basically my key, that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight."

The person on the not-so-fun end of the exchange had no problem with it, though.

"It's tough," Smith said during his time at the FedEx Field podium. "I'm glad I don't play defense... I felt like he’s playing football. He’s played a long time. He hit me right in the strike zone."

Smith wasn't the only 'Skin to speak out in support of Matthews, either.

"What else do you want the man to do?" Josh Norman (who actually has the same agent as Matthews) asked reporters in the home locker room. "Like, seriously, what else do you want the man to do? "

"When I saw it, there was no malicious, ill intent," Norman continued. "I understand the rules of the situation, but at the same time, it sucks being a defender now. They hit your pockets and then they hit you for a penalty."

The NFL is clearly trying to make itself safer, which is both smart and necessary. But its approach in how its doing so has been confusing in a few critical areas, and this part of roughing the passer enforcement has temporarily surpassed the catch rule and the helmet rule as the most muddled of them all.

After all, when the QB and other opponents have no complaints about a tackle but the refs and the wording of the rule do, there's a disconnect. One that should be addressed.

"I think there's some gray area here with this that needs to be ironed out," Smith observed.  

For a signal caller who was accurate for much of the afternoon, that statement might've been the most on-point part of his day.

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Trent Williams to undergo 'minor' surgery, expected to play in Week 5

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Trent Williams to undergo 'minor' surgery, expected to play in Week 5

Following an offseason procedure on his right knee, Trent Williams looked back and better than ever during Redskins' OTAs prior to the start of this season. However, we have now learned that Williams' knee has been bothering him despite the successful offseason surgery.

According to ABC 7's Erin Hawksworth, Trent Williams will be undergoing a 'minor procedure' on his right knee Monday.

The procedure is believed to be a 'clean up,' to ensure Williams' knee has held up post-surgery.

With Week 4 being an early bye-week for the Redskins, Williams has a little extra time to recover before his anticipated return during Week 5 vs. the New Orleans Saints.

The 30-year-old is in his ninth season with the Redskins and has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times. 

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