DENVER — While James Harden remains Houston's offensive mainstay, newcomer Corey Brewer is providing a spark.
"He's a game-changer," Harden said of Brewer, acquired from Minnesota in December as part of a three-team trade. "He changed the game for us. We were kind of stagnant, we were down, he got a couple of steals. Brew did what Brew does and that's why we won the game."
Trevor Ariza had 19 points and Donatas Motiejunas added 18 for the Rockets, who overcame a slow start to begin a key four-game road trip with their second straight win in Denver after losing the previous four.
Wilson Chandler had 26 points to lead Denver, which is 2-2 under interim coach Melvin Hunt. He replaced Brian Shaw, who was fired Tuesday.
"We were a little tired maybe, the four games in five nights," said the Nuggets' Danilo Gallinari, who had 11 points but missed 12 of his 15 shots from the field. "I don't want to use that as an excuse. They were better than us. I thought we played hard. Both teams did, and unfortunately they were able to be better than us."
After falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter, the Rockets turned it around with Brewer leading a resurgent transition game that repeatedly broke through Denver's defense for easy baskets.
"His energy, his running, he rebounded the ball well," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "Corey was fantastic."
Brewer said he takes his role as a catalyst seriously.
"I feel if I have a lot of energy it picks everybody else up," he said. "If I'm running, everybody else starts running and it sparks our team."
A former Nugget, Brewer scored eight points in the second period, helping Houston go back in front at halftime 55-48.
The Nuggets got a pair of 3-pointers and a three-point play from Randy Foye at the start of the third quarter to surge in front 62-58.
Back came Houston. Ariza drained a 3 to start a 13-2 run that put the Rockets in front 71-64. Later in the third, the Rockets stretched their lead to 85-71, this time with a 12-2 burst that Ariza capped with his third 3-pointer of the game.
Harden converted a three-point play and the Rockets took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter. Houston opened a 21-point cushion on Harden's jumper with 6:52 left.
Rockets: The Rockets also have stops at Portland, Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers on the road trip. ... Dwight Howard (right knee edema) and Kostas Papanikolaou (sprained right ankle) remained sidelined. Before the game, McHale gave an update on Howard's status, saying the center has begun some conditioning and floor work. The team is still proceeding cautiously with Howard's rehab. "He is starting to do a combination of treadmill and floor stuff, which is a good sign," McHale said. "They're going slow. They want to make sure that they have a handle on it."
Nuggets: Rookie C Jusuf Nurkic missed his sixth straight game because of a right ankle sprain. ... F Darrell Arthur left in the second quarter with right knee soreness and did not return. ... Chandler has scored 20 or more points 10 times this season.
Rockets: At Portland on Wednesday night.
Nuggets: Host New York on Monday night.