TODAY: DENVER Nuggets AT Rockets When/where: 1 p.m.; Toyota Center.
TV/radio: FSH; 610 AM, 850 AM (Spanish).
Records: Rockets 25-16; Nuggets: 27-14
Key matchup: Yao Ming vs. Nene: Yao dropped 32 points on the Nuggets in last month's visit to Houston and could do it again if he sees much one-on-one defense. Nene is shooting 62 percent from the field and averaging career highs in points, rebounds and blocked shots.
Rockets update: The five-game homestand serves up a matinee and another playoff-quality opponent. The Rockets split the first two meetings with the Nuggets as both teams won on their home floor. Yao Ming is coming off his perfect 12-for-12 shooting night against Miami. Without Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest in the lineup, the Rockets are having to rely more on moving the ball offensively, and it's paying off.
Nuggets update: The Nuggets lost at home against Orlando on Saturday night, ending a brief two-game winning streak. They're still 2? games up on Portland for first place in the Northwest Division and sitting in the No. 3 spot in the West. Carmelo Anthony broke a bone in his right hand on Jan. 5 and will likely be out of the lineup until next week. As a result, J.R. Smith has moved into the starting lineup, lessening the punch of the Nuggets' bench. On Dec. 31, George Karl became the 10th coach in league history to notch his 900th career win.
Yao quick on his feet
Yao Ming tried to step in front of Miami's Michael Beasley to draw a charge in the first quarter Saturday night but was called for a blocking foul instead.
"Good," said Dikembe Mutombo. "He has to learn that he's too big to think he's going to get those calls. Maybe if he gets more going against him, he'll stop it."
Yao seemed puzzled and amused by his elder critic.
"I learned that move in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association)," he said with a laugh. "Tell Deke it takes skill to move your feet. I'll just stay away from him."
Mutombo shook his head.
"Ohhhh, now I know why China never won the Asian Cup," he cracked.
Perfect against Miami
Yao Ming was as surprised as anyone that he finished the Miami game a club-record 12-for-12 from the field.
"I think I might have had one or two tips around the basket that maybe they missed," he said.
Saturday did not mark the best shooting game of Yao's career. In the CBA Finals in 2002, he was 21-of-21 while leading the Shanghai Sharks to the championship.
For years, former NBA player and coach Al Attles got tons of mileage out of telling folks that on March 2, 1962, he and Wilt Chamberlain combined to score 117 points against the New York Knicks. Of course, Wilt had scored 100.
So it was in that tongue-in-cheek tradition that Shane Battier described Yao Ming's perfect shooting performance from the field against Miami.
"Between Yao and me, we went 13-for-13 and really set the tone," Battier grinned. "I don't want to take credit for the win. But don't look past the efficiency of No. 31 and No. 11."
Rockets' lineup thin
Having just 10 players available for a game is not always problematic, since the rotation will go only so deep. But with Luther Head (sore right foot) now joining Tracy McGrady (knee) and Ron Artest (ankle) on the sidelines, the atmosphere at practices is quite different for the Rockets.
"Before practice, when a lot of guys are still downstairs getting treatment, it looks like a YMCA," said Rafer Alston.