Trailing by 15 early in the third quarter, the Rockets, behind Steve Francis, came storming back and actually led by 5 midway through the fourth quarter.
But it wasn't meant to be.
Francis went down with an ankle sprain and the Rockets momentum went with it as the Nuggets eeked out the 102-100 win in the Compaq Center.
Cuttino Mobley picked Nick Van Exel's pocket in the closing seconds but his 13-footer as time expired wouldn't go down.
The tough-to-swallow loss drops the Rockets record to 13-10 and puts them at 9th in the Western Conference.
It's a damn shame too, because it seemed Francis, who was smoking in the second half, was going to lead them to the Promised Land. Steve scored 21 points combined in the third and first half of the fourth quarter. He finished with a team-high 26 points on 11-19 shooting, 9 boards (6 offensive) and 4 assists.
Problem is Van Exel was just as good, scoring 26 points and dishing 8 dimes... Nick also did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 17 in the final two quarters.
As for Francis' ankle, he left the game after twisting it with over 5 minutes to go, and returned with around 3 minutes to go, but wasn't the same on the ankle.
"When I came back it didn't feel like it did at the beginning of the game," said Steve. "But I'm not going to miss a game because of a sprained ankle.
Still, we would have seen OT had Mobley (20 points, 6-16 shooting) nailed the final shot. The Nuggets inbounded with just over 5 seconds left and up 2. Mobley forced the Van Exel turnover and quickly fired... no dice.
The Rockets power forwards had good games. In 27 minutes Maurice Taylor scored 16 points and grabbed 5 boards -- Kenny Thomas logged one minute more, but scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting and corralled 9 rebounds.
Shandon Anderson scored 8 points while Hakeem Olajuwon finished with 6 and 7 boards, but managed to hit just 3-10 shots. Matt Bullard, after being so hot, turned ice cold... going 1-7 from the field -- ALL those shots being three-point attempts.
Antonio McDyess scored 17 points and 20 boards for the Nuggets while Voshon Lenard, inexcusably, was allowed to pop off for 19, 6 boards and 5 assists.