Nuggets at Rockets: Reinvigorated Nuggets take on Harden, Lin once more

USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season just 1-3, the Nuggets beat newly minted Rocket James Harden in November en route to three wins in a row. Two months later, another road win at the Rockets and a winning streak would go a long way toward closing out the January home stand right.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 44
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vs
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25-18 (9-15 on the road)
1-0
22-21 (14-7 at home)
January 23, 2013 - 6:00 PM (MT)
Toyota Center - Houston, Texas
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson
PG Jeremy Lin
Andre Iguodala
SG James Harden
Danilo Gallinari
SF Chandler Parsons
Kenneth Faried
PF Marcus Morris
Kosta Koufos
C Omer Asik
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs The Dream Shake
None! Injuries None!
The Nuggets have 6 players averaging 10+ ppg Stat Rockets snapped their 7-game skid against Charlotte despite Harden shooting 5-20 from the floor

When last the Nuggets and Rockets played on November 7th 2012, the Nuggets were looking to ignite their first win streak of the season after an unexpected 1-3 start. The Nuggets had just come off their first road win of the season against the lowly Pistons and looked to build some momentum as they struggled through their difficult early schedule. Tonight, the Nuggets would do very well to use this game as another momentum builder.

Following "the longest film session in the history of George Karl" and rousing words from Andre Miller, the Nuggets gutted out an overtime win (warts and all) against the team that had just beaten them by 20 just four nights prior. Clearly, a team that's already let too many winnable games slip away this season decided to knuckle down and, for once, show some degree of maturity in a game that - make no mistake about it - they needed to win.

Although Russell Westbrook and the Thunder are made of sterner stuff than these Houston Rockets, the Nuggets could lose another game if they take them lightly. The Nuggets have to build off the win against OKC and use that as a template for taking this final January road game. Speaking of which, the Nuggets are now 8-3 in the month of January with four games (including tonight) to play. If the Nuggets can reel off four more wins against very beatable competition (@ Houston tonight, then home versus Sacramento, the Pacers, and Houston again), they'll end up with a 29-18 record and should be primed to challenge the Memphis Grizzlies for the 4 seed in the West.

Let's be frank: if this team is to have any success in the postseason beyond the first round, they absolutely must secure home court. Realistically, that means outplaying a tough Memphis Grizzlies team in the remaining 38 games, and also winning the Nuggets final matchup with the Grizzlies at home on Friday, March 15th. That means taking the winnable road games (like this one) and not losing any more home games to the likes of the Timberwolves and Wizards. The final game against the Grizzlies will also determine if the Nuggets secure a 3-1 series advantage and thus playoff tiebreaker over the Grizzlies - mark that one down on your calendars, Stiffs.

Still, lest we look past our foes and end up like the 2012 Denver Broncos, the Nuggets must remain focused against a Rockets team that's looking to build its own winning streak.

What to Watch For:

- Beardsanity? - Despite James Harden shooting just 5-20 from the floor in a losing-streak-snapping win over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, he still managed to score 29 points from the floor. How? By making 19 of 21 attempts at the line. The Nuggets are 4th in the NBA in FTA, and the Rockets are just behind them at 6th. Despite underperforming some big expectations that'd been created for him, Jeremy Lin is also capable of filling it up from the line and beyond the arc. The Nuggets must play smart defense against these Rockets and not give them cheap points from the line.

Key Stat: Nuggets' +5 FTM/FTA

- Coal in the Gold - There's no denying it: JaVale McGee has been utterly terrible on the floor over the last ten games. Here's his shooting from the floor in that time, going back to the home loss against the Timberwolves: 3-7, 2-7, 5-6, 2-7, 2-3, 0-4, 1-6, 7-9, 2-5, 1-7. He's turned the ball over almost twice a game in that span and has pulled in ten or more rebounds just once this year. I'm not really sure what's wrong with McGee, but he looks like he's completely forgotten all of his expensive Olajuwon training in the offseason. He's back to bad habits of bringing the ball low, rushing in the post instead of grinding with head and ball fakes and overdribbling. I still think McGee has been a net positive for this team, but he absolutely must get over whatever's bothering him and play with poise. I'm not even going to touch how bad his defense has been.

Key Stat: McGee with 7+ rebounds, 10+ points and >50% FG

- Fly, Lawson - There's been much made of Ty's tough words following the home loss to Minnesota. It seemed that the usually reticent Ty Lawson was stepping into a leadership role (the Nuggets then reeled off 6 straight wins), but his play has still been maddeningly inconsistent. Ty's had two games this year where he's played 20 or more minutes and scored 2 and 0 points. That's not acceptable for a team whose offense is predicated on Ty making himself a threat to score at the rim to create looks and lanes for the wings. He's gotta be aggressive, keep the turnovers down, and look to score as much as he sets up his teammates.

Key Stat: Lawson with 15+ points, 7+ assists

Opposition's Take: The Dream Shake

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