Someone should tell that the Rockets that they should only pass to the players wearing red and white.
Unable to pull away in the first two quarters and the score wobbling back and forth at 55-52, the Nuggets took advantage of a Rockets team that could simply not hold on to the ball. After a slow start to the third, the Nuggets exploited extremely sloppy play with an array of blocks and steals to go on a 30-11 run, which essentially ended the game. Bad passing by James Harden (7 turnovers) and an inability to knock down the tre contributed to the demise of the Rockets tonight. In all, the Rockets coughed up the rock 22 separate times tonight en route to handing the Nuggets their 10th road win. The Nuggets played the game they are so, so good at, scoring a routine - for them - 52 points in the paint, 22 fast break points and committing just 12 fouls and 14 turns.
Tonight, though, the Nuggets got a very special game from Wilson Chandler. In his return from hip surgery, Chandler's heated up faster than a hibachi for this team off the bench. He poured in 20 points on 7-15 shooting, going 2-3 from beyond the arc, grabbing 6 rebounds, 3 steals and committing just 1 turnover. In a lineup that featured Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, Chandler and Iguodala absolutely locked down the Rockets from the perimeter. In a stretch that lasted from 8:52 when he checked in to when Corey Brewer came in for Danilo Gallinari at 2:33 in the third, the Nuggets went on a 23-7 run. With the Nuggets struggling to find some offensive rhythm for the first 30 minutes, it was great to see Chandler step up when the Nuggets needed him.
After another slow 1-5 start from Danilo Gallinari, he found his rhythm in the second half, ending up 6-13 from the floor and contributing 18 points. He also drilled a very deep 3 and seems to be getting more and more consistent, which is helping this team open up the packed interior so omnipresent in the first half of the season. You can already see how it's affecting other teams - Chris Marlowe loudly exclaimed "that's how it's supposed to work!" after a dribble drive by Ty, who kicked it to a wide open Gallo in the corner for a backbreaking 3. Gallinari's continued success in knocking that shot down will be critical to the success of this team, and it's great to see the scheme finally working.
Ty and Andre scored 35 points on 13-26 shooting and were very in control throughout the game, though Ty did get himself into trouble with some overdribbles and jump passes before settling down. It's great to see Iguodala start to pick his game up after some truly horrific performances, and his 4-5 night from the line shows that he's at least trying to work on improving his performance at the stripe. I was particularly impressed with Iguodala's willingness to run out and take solid midrange jumpers, something that appeared to open up when Wilson Chandler entered the game. A healthy lineup featuring both Chandler and Iguodala guarding the wings has the potential to be insanely good at defending the perimeter, and it showed tonight - the Rockets shot just 11-34 from the arc.
The Nuggets will not play again until Saturday night against a team in turmoil, the Sacramento (Seattle) Kings (Supersonics) at 7 PM. It would be great to see the Nuggets push this streak to three with another home victory.
Special credit to George Karl tonight, who got his 1,100th victory, edging closer to Phil Jackson (1155) and the 5th spot in the all-time coaching wins list.
In my game preview, I mentioned three stats that would see the Nuggets to victory:
Nuggets +5 FTM/FTA - Tonight, the Nuggets ended up 17-25 from the line (68%), but held the Rockets to just 10 of 13 (77%). Check.
McGee with 7+ rebounds, 10+ points and >50% FG - Although McGee pulled down just 2 boards, he did score 14 points on 6-7 shooting, including an eye-popping (especially for Karl) self oop at the end of the third quarter. After a series of very sub par games, it was great to see a line like this. Check.
Ty Lawson with 15+ points, 7+ assists - Ty's periods of passivity were greatly reduced tonight, and he ended up scoring 21 points with 7 assists on an efficient 8-15 shooting. Check.
Highlight of the Night:
Courtesy our very own Nate Timmons, here's JaVale's ridiculous pump fake off the backboard self alley oop. It's worth noting that Karl was less than amused - McGee did not see the floor again after this play, though that may have been due to the fact that it was already well into a blowout.
Opposition's Take: The Dream Shake
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