The Houston Rockets found a new way to keep their winning streak going.
With Tracy McGrady shut down by the defense of Kobe Bryant, Rafer Alston scored 31 points and hit eight 3-pointers, both career highs, and the Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-92 to stretch their streak to 22 and claim sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
Kobe Bryant scored 24 points for the Lakers and smothered McGrady on defense, helping hold the Houston star to 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
The rest of the Rockets made up for it. Shane Battier scored 14 points and shadowed Bryant most of the game, backup point guard Bobby Jackson added 19 points and Luis Scola had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
``There wasn't a time where we wavered from successful team basketball,'' Battier said. ``Different guys hit shots and we tightened the reins on defense.''
Also, the Denver Nuggets set an NBA season high for points in a half and a game with a 168-116 win over the Seattle SuperSonics.
In other NBA games Sunday, it was: Atlanta 109, New York Knicks 98; Detroit 105, New Orleans 84; Dallas 98, Miami 73; Cleveland 98, Charlotte 91; and Sacramento 106, Toronto 100.
The Rockets have won 26 of their past 27 games and 31 of their past 34. They've won 15 straight at the Toyota Center, 10 straight since Yao Ming went out with a broken foot and 11 of their past 13 games by double digits.
Houston hasn't been beaten since a 97-89 loss to Utah on Jan. 27.
``Let's keep it going,'' McGrady said. ``This was a good test for us. We came out and took care of business.''
Nuggets 168, SuperSonics 116
Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, Allen Iverson had 24 and Marcus Camby had a triple-double to lift host Denver.
The 168 points are the most Denver has scored in a game since Jan. 11, 1984, against San Antonio. It is also the most the Nuggets have scored in regulation.
The Nuggets, who led by as many as 55 in the fourth quarter, fell 16 points shy of the franchise record, set in a 186-184 triple-overtime loss to Detroit on Dec. 13, 1983.
The Nuggets topped the 138 points they scored against Seattle in a 32-point win on Feb. 27, which was also the league high for the season. Denver scored 84 points in both halves, surpassing the previous high of 80 set by Phoenix on Nov. 21.
Pistons 105, Hornets 84
Jarvis Hayes scored 29 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers, to lead host Detroit.
Chauncey Billups finished with 17 points and Tayshaun Prince scored 13 for the Pistons, who have won four of five.
The Hornets lost for just the second time in seven games. New Orleans was missing David West, who sprained his right ankle Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
New Orleans got 21 points from Peja Stojakovic and Chris Paul added 14 points and 14 assists.
Cavaliers 98, Bobcats 91
LeBron James scored 33 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 16 points and nine rebounds for host Cleveland.
Ben Wallace scored his only two baskets of the game, Delonte West added a jumper and James hit a bank shot in the lane in the final 2 minutes as the Cavaliers held on after nearly squandering an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Jason Richardson scored nine straight points, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play to spark Charlotte's comeback. He finished with 33 points.
Mavericks 98, Heat 73
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points before sitting out most of the second half, and visiting Dallas stormed out to a huge early lead on the way to the win.
Josh Howard added 15 for the Mavericks, who led by 20 points midway through the opening quarter and have beaten the Heat in each of the teams' past eight regular-season meetings. Brandon Bass and Jason Terry each scored 14 and Jerry Stackhouse had 12 for Dallas, which snapped a three-game road losing skid and won its fifth straight overall.
Earl Barron scored a career-high 21 for Miami, which set a season low in points and is a league-worst 11-54.
Hawks 109, Knicks 98
Joe Johnson had 28 points and 11 assists, and visiting Atlanta moved into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Marvin Williams added 25 points for the Hawks, who used their athleticism to break open what was only a five-point game early in the final quarter. Reserve Josh Childress had 14 of his 22 points in the second half and added nine rebounds.
Atlanta (28-38) hasn't made the playoffs since 1999, the NBA's longest drought. The Hawks tied New Jersey for eighth place in the East, and following a game in Washington on Monday, they visit the Nets on Wednesday night.
Nate Robinson scored 23 points for the Knicks, who have lost eight of nine.
Kings 106, Raptors 100
Kevin Martin had 32 points and eight rebounds for host Sacramento.
Ron Artest added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Mikki Moore scored 17 for the Kings, who have won three of four.
Jason Kapono scored 26 points for the Raptors, who have lost four straight and five of six.
The Raptors played their ninth straight game without All-Star forward Chris Bosh, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who's out with a sore right knee. Toronto is 2-7 during the stretch without Bosh and 4-10 overall this season without him.

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