Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets Preview


The Denver Nuggets host the Houston Rockets on Monday evening at the Pepsi Center for an important match up in the Western Conference playoff race.

Currently, the Houston Rockets inhabit the 7th playoff spot in the Western Conference, and stand 2.5 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets. Denver is only two games out of the 8th playoff spot in the West — and with a win, can make some headway. Monday’s game against Houston is the final game of a three-game home-stand, where the Denver Nuggets have split their first two games. The Nuggets last played on Friday, where they pulled off a rousing comeback to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime. Monday’s game against Houston is the first game of a back-to-back for Denver.

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Of course, when talking about the Houston Rockets, the main storyline is the return of long-time Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. We all know about the off the court issues Lawson had during his 6 year stint with the Nuggets. Lawson is having a mediocre first year with the Houston Rockets, averaging only 6.6 points per game, to go along with 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds per contest.

The Denver Nuggets will also have to contend with the Rockets’ James Harden, who is currently second in the league in scoring, averaging 29 points per game. Though Harden is averaging nearly 30 points per contest, he is not known for his defensive prowess, and presents an opportunity for the Denver Nuggets to exploit this fatal flaw in the makeup of his game. 

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The Denver Nuggets one the first meeting between these two teams this season, defeating the Rockets 107-98 on November 14th at the Pepsi Center. Danilo Gallinari score 27 points for the Nuggets, while Will Barton scored a career high 26 in a winning effort over Houston.

The Houston Rockets have won five out of their last six games, and seven out of their last ten overall. Ever since the firing of Head Coach Kevin McHale, interim HC J.B. Bickerstaff has his team playing better basketball than they were in the early going of the season. The Rockets’ offense is one of the best in the association, and will certainly present problems for the Denver Nuggets all night. Between James Harden and Trevor Ariza on the wing, and Dwight Howard down low, the Denver Nuggets have to buckle down and take advantage of their opportunities.

A sound defensive strategy for the Denver Nuggets is to let James Harden get his 30 points, but to make sure that none of the other Rockets players have many chances to get open shots. Harden is leading the league with over 20 field goal attempts per game, so he will do his best to get his points regardless. If the Denver Nuggets can limit the efficacy of Ty Lawson and Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, they stand a good chance to come out with a victory.

The Houston Rockets have the second-most three-pointers in the league (behind the Golden State Warriors). Because of their penchant to rely so heavily on a long-range attack, the opportunity is their for the Denver Nuggets to secure important offensive rebounds when they inevitably go cold.

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As aforementioned, the Houston Rockets defense is one of the worst in the NBA, as they give up almost 107 points per contest (good for 27th out of 30 NBA teams). They also rank 18th in the league in rebounding at 43.8 per game. James Harden is dangerous, but this team in its current state does not resemble the same team that appeared in last season’s Western Conference Finals against Golden State. They are back to .500, but on paper aren’t nearly the same threat.

Danilo Gallinari has success against the Houston Rockets, as the Denver Nuggets forward has scored an aggregate 50 points against Houston over their last two meetings. Against a mediocre defensive squad like the Rockets, Gallinari and the Denver Nuggets can take advantage of their poor defensive play. The Nuggets must however play efficiently, getting contributions from both the starters and the reserves.

Next: Denver Nuggets Win Thriller Over Wolves in OT, 111-108

The Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets tip off at 7:00 PM at the Pepsi Center, with a chance to finish the home-stand with a 2-1 record.