Rockets vs. Nuggets preview: No tanking here ...

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets will miss the playoffs for the first time in 11 years ... but you can't accuse them of tanking away the 2013-14 season.

Game 78: 2013-14 NBA Season

Houston Rockets (1996 - 2003)

@
52-25 (21-17 away)
Series 2-0
33-44 (20-18 home)
April 9th, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Jeremy Lin
PG Aaron Brooks
James Harden
SG Randy Foye
Chandler Parsons
SF Quincy Miller
Terrence Jones
PF Kenneth Faried
Omer Asik
C Timofey Mozgov
Notes
The Dream Shake Blogs Denver Stiffs
Patrick Beverley (knee), Greg Smith (knee) are out; Dwight Howard (ankle) is questionable Injuries Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg fracture), Nate Robinson (ACL sprain), JJ Hickson (ACL), Wilson Chandler (groin) are out, Ty Lawson (ankle) is questionable

Despite Denver's home prowess for the last 10 or so seasons, the Rockets are 8-11 at Pepsi Center since the 2002-03 season.

Stat

Aaron Brooks impressively put up 24 points and dished out 15 assists in Sunday's OT loss at Houston.

The Denver Nuggets' 130-125 overtime (thriller) loss at Houston on Sunday should have shown Nuggets fans everywhere one thing: there's no tanking in Denver. Yes, the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets season will go down in the history books as a forgotten one (alongside other forgotten Nuggets' seasons such as the 2001-02, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1980-81 campaigns), but the effort put forth by this team these past few weeks should be commended. Had the late March / early April version of the Nuggets' effort exhibited itself earlier in the season when the team was relatively healthier, perhaps we'd be talking playoffs instead of NBA Draft Lottery come next Wednesday when this season concludes.

Well, one can dream anyway.

77 games into the 2013-14 season - and despite the aforementioned effort displayed by the Nuggets players recently - it's clear that the team just doesn't have a lot of talent. The Andre Iguodala / Corey Brewer pre-season departure killed the Nuggets once-feisty turnover-creation machine, and the absence of Danilo Gallinari has hurt more than anyone not named Jeff Morton could have imagined. Throw in a colossal disappointment of a season from JaVale McGee and you get a 2013-14 Nuggets squad stitched together with Elmer's glue and duct tape.

That Elmer's glue and duct tape is going to need to hold for five more games, the first of which takes place Wednesday night at Pepsi Center when the Nuggets rematch that same Rockets team who bested them in overtime on Sunday. Playing depleted themselves sans All-Star center Dwight Howard and starting guard Patrick Beverley, the Rockets nonetheless have to hang on to their fourth overall seed in the Western Conference to ensure home court advantage in the Playoffs Round 1. My gut feel is that the Nuggets won't make it easy for them, as Denver youngsters like Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller and Kenneth Faried look to add value to future contract extensions and Aaron Brooks plays his butt off just to get another NBA contract.

But if the Nuggets are to bring home a victory in the first of their final two Pepsi Center dates this season, they must reverse some of the errors made in Sunday's heartbreaking giveaway loss.

Three things to look for in this game ...

1) Get to the free throw line. Despite the 130-125 final score, the Nuggets somehow managed to attempt just 13 free throws on Sunday against the Rockets. 13!! Conversely, Houston attempted 40. And while it was nice that Denver connected on 45.2% of their three-pointers the Nuggets must more aggressively attack the rim on Wednesday night. Especially since Howard is expected to be out of the lineup.

2) Will the real Evan Fournier please stand up? Fournier's offensive onslaught (26 points including 6 made three-pointers) on Sunday kept the Nuggets in the game throughout. But in his previous three games combined, Fournier couldn't even muster 26 points total.

3) More benching for Lawson and Chandler? Is it just me, or if the Nuggets had consecutive playoff appearance number 11 on the line on Wednesday would Lawson and Chandler be on the floor? (For the record, I'm all for Lawson and Chandler sitting ... it will make the Denver Stiffs' NBA Draft Lottery party that much more interesting.)

Scouting the Rockets ...

Rockets Non-Stiffs

-James Harden: When you're the best active two-guard in the NBA, you're no Stiff.

-Chandler Parsons: 16.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.9 apg and he has started in every game that he has played in this season. Not bad for the 38th overall pick in the NBA Draft.

-Terrence Jones: In less than 30 minutes per game, Jones is proving to be quite the contributor and a good anchor alongside Howard. Not bad for the 18th overall pick in the NBA Draft (see, you don't have to tank to build a team ... just draft really well!).

Rockets Stiffs

-Dwight Howard: Despite Howard's his presence unquestionably turning the Rockets into an NBA Finals contender, he's still a whiny Stiff in my book.

Final Thought ...

In a sense, the Nuggets have been doing exactly what the fans have wanted lately: put forth a bold effort but lose anyway. It's a pathetic take on how fans approach the NBA these days, but every percentage point counts in the NBA Draft Lottery. So ...

... Go Nuggets!!

Sort of.

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