Moses Malone exploded for 41 points and 26 rebounds tonight and hauled the Houston Rockets back from a 13-point deficit to defeat Denver, 119-117.

Maline, a former MVP in the NBA, came alive in the third period after he was assessed his fourth personal foul. Dan Issel converted two free throws for Denver at that point to give the Nuggets and 82-69 lead at 7:19 of the period.

But Malone never got another foul and he shredded the Nugget defense inside. He racked up 17 points and 10 rebounds in the third stanza as Houston fought back to within three, 95-92, going into the final period.

The Rockets, who evened their record at 3-3, quickly gained control and built a lead of six points with 5:15 remaining before the Nuggets struggled back.

Alex English, who had 30 to pace Denver, got the Nuggets a brief lead at 2:52 with a twisting jumper from the baseline but Robert Reid started a five-point streak that left Houston with a four-point lead and 1:36 remaining.

Reid made a three-point play, but Denver trimmed the margin to one with 15 seconds left. Reid then capped the scoring by hitting one of two free throws with six seconds and Denver's final try, a three-pointer by Kenny Higgs, bounded off the rim.