Olajuwon had 20 points and Pippen scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets beat the Nuggets 84-75 Tuesday night. It was the Nuggets' fifth straight loss, but they didn't fade until late.
"We should play a lot better," Pippen said. "We need to put teams like that away early and let the bench have some fun. We just couldn't gain any control over the game. They were more active then we were."
The Rockets started out running with eight fast-break baskets in the first quarter. But they lost their lead in the second quarter and struggled just to edge back ahead 44-41 at the half.
Denver took a 52-49 lead with 5:20 to go in the third quarter, but a 14-2 run by the Rockets featuring five points by Olajuwon gave the Rockets a 63-54 lead going into the fourth quarter.
"It was an ugly win," Cuttino Mobley said. "We didn't take care of the basketball. I missed some easy shots. We've just got to pick it up from here. It's a matter of taking care of the ball and playing smarter."
Pippen kept the Rockets from losing ground in the fourth quarter. Eight of his points in the period came in the final 3:15. The Rockets were successful running in the fourth quarter and finished with 21 fast-break points.
"I just tried to let the game come to me," Pippen said. "Later on in the game, the opportunities were there and I tried to take advantage of them."
The Rockets held the Nuggets to 29.9 percent shooting and held Denver to eight fast-break points.
"We did a good job of cutting their fast break and we got 21," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "This is a win we had to have. You can see it all over the league, teams are out of character. But I like our foundation and we can get so much better on the fast break."
Antonio McDyess led Denver with 23 points and Danny Fortson had 15 points and 21 rebounds.
"We shot 30 percent and they shot over 50 (50.8)," Denver coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We aren't going to win many games if we don't learn to shoot better. We had a chance in the third quarter, but we turned the ball over and we didn't make our shots."
After the Rockets took their biggest lead of the first half, 24-13, Denver went on a 23-11 run that gave the Nuggets their first lead of the game 36-35 on a 3-point basket by Johnny Taylor with 4:31 left in the half.
The Rockets regained the lead 42-40 on five points from Pippen and held onto their narrow halftime lead.
Notes: Charles Barkley is five assists from reaching 4,000 for his career and 42 rebounds short of 3,500. ... Nick Van Exel ran with the second team during Monday's practice session after showing up late. He still started the game and played 39 minutes... McDyess has 10 double-doubles this season. ... Olajuwon, the NBA's career leading shot-blocker, had four blocks, extending his career total to 3,503.
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