Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Denver Nuggets

Following their win over the Suns without James Harden or Trevor Ariza, the Rockets head back home to play the Denver Nuggets for the third time in as many weeks. Currently 52-25 on the season, the Rockets have hit a rough patch, winning just six of their last 10 . James Harden remains the team leader in points, assists and rebounds, averaging 29.2, 11.2 and 8.1 per game, respectively. The Rockets rank 2nd in offensive rating, 16th in defensive rating and 3rd in overall net rating.

Following a three point victory over the Pelicans on Tuesday, the Nuggets come into Houston looking for their first win against the Rockets. The Nuggets are 36-40, just barely outside of the West’s eighth, and final, playoff spot, and have won half of their last 10 games. The Nuggets’ balanced scoring attack is led by Danilo Gallinari, with 17.7 points per game, while Nikola Jokic leads in rebounds with 9.6 a game and Jameer Nelson leads in assists at 5.1 per game. The Nuggets currently rank 4th in offensive rating, 29th in defensive rating and 18th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

Ryan Anderson will miss his sixth game with a sprained ankle, and will be eyeing a return in the next week or so, while Sam Dekker will miss his first game of the season with a broken hand. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Troy Williams at small forward, Trevor Ariza at power forward, and Clint Capela at center to start the game, with Lou Williams and Eric Gordon sharing the role of sixth man.

After missing their last game, it is unclear if any of Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, or Darrell Arthur will play for the Nuggets on Wednesday. The Nuggets will likely start Jamal Murray at point guard, Gary Harris at shooting guard, Danilo Gallinari  at small forward, Kenneth Faried at power forward, and Nikola Jokic at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Nail Biters – The last two games between these two teams have come down to the wire, one decided by just four points, while the other was won by a James Harden coast to coast finish to put the Rockets up one point in the last second of the game. Watch to see if the Nuggets push the Rockets for 48 minutes, ending in another close game.
  • Motivation – Now on the outside looking in, the Nuggets are fighting for their playoff lives , sitting a few games back of Portland for the West’s last spot. While the Nuggets are sure to be motivated, the Rockets don’t really have anything to play for, as they have essentially locked themselves into the 3rd seed already. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to match the Nuggets’ intensity, despite having no real reason for urgency.
  • Sam’s Spot – After breaking his hand in the Rockets’ last game, forward, Sam Dekker will likely miss three to four weeks of action. With Ryan Anderson and Sam Dekker both out, Trevor Ariza is the only active Rockets who has proven capable of play power forward. Not all news is grim however, as D-League assignee, Troy Williams showed he may be able to step into a role as a combo-forward for the Rockets, scoring 21 points and making six threes in the Rockets’ last game, and will be making his second straight start in Wednesday’s game. Watch to see exactly where the backup power forward minutes go for the now extremely thin Rockets.

Prediction and Tip-Off

Despite maybe not wanting the game as much as the Nuggets do, the Rockets will still likely win this game, as they are the more talented team, even after considering injuries.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Wednesday, April 5th. The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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Kyle Chilek

Computer Science major at Texas State University, eternally optimistic Rockets Fan, avid Pokemon catcher and cat enthusiast.

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