The Nuggets began a seven-game series Sunday night.

Get four wins and they most likely clinch a playoff berth.

So far, so good after Game 1.

After a sloppy first half against Houston, the Nuggets turned up the defense, stepped on the accelerator and ran away with a 101-86 win over the Rockets at Pepsi Center.

“We’re in a playoff series,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We’re playing different teams but we’ve got to win this playoff series. We have to win at least four. If we do that, the game will give us an opportunity to play more.”

Arron Afflalo scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to help Denver (33-27) move a game ahead of Houston for seventh place in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Nuggets also closed within a half-game of sixth-place Dallas.

The Rockets and Nuggets play again Monday night in Houston.

“It’s playoff time,” Denver guard Ty Lawson said. “This is where we’re going to position ourselves. If we beat Houston tomorrow, it’s going to be a huge advantage for us.”


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