The Denver Nuggets are the proud owners of a two-game winning streak, having defeated the Milwaukee Bucks on a game-winning tip-in by Kenneth Faried and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers thanks to a key block by Emmanuel Mudiay.
The two teams have played before, a game the Nuggets likely haven't forgotten and a game the Rockets would rather forget. Denver defeated Houston with a total team effort, lead by Danilo Gallinari's 23 points in a 20 point win. The Rockets are fresh off a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a loss which has their head coach Kevin McHale scratching his head.
"I'm worried about our team right now," coach Kevin McHale said. "We haven't caught a rhythm yet. I've said it all since we've been together. We haven't been able to put together long runs of just good, solid basketball."
Who: Denver Nuggets (4-4) vs. Houston Rockets (4-4)
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO
Where to Watch: Altitude TV
Rival Blog: The Dream Shake
|C||Dwight Howard||J.J. Hickson||Rockets|
|Bench||, , ,|
Three things to watch:
The Rockets defense has been shoddy this season, with the team giving up 108.3 points per game. Dwight Howard and Clint Capela are capable centers, but the team has missed Terrence Jones more than they'd like to admit. Jones has missed time with injuries this season, and in response, the team has gone super-small, putting Marcus Thornton in the starting lineup. The Rockets have given up 38 offensive rebounds over their last three games, and an average of 12.4 offensive boards a game. If Kenneth Faried can be the Manimal, getting those offensive boards for easy buckets, the Nuggets will have an easier go defeating Houston again.
Key matchup: Gary Harris vs James Harden
Gary Harris held James Harden in check in the first game of this season's series, with Harden going 6 for 21 for 22 points and three turnovers. Harris has been more silent guard than shooting guard this season, averaging 2.4 3-point attempts per game at a position that most teams rely upon for outside scoring. Harris's role isn't to be the leading scorer like Harden, but Denver needs him to stretch the floor to open up lanes for Emmanuel Mudiay and the rolling Denver big men. If the Nuggets can keep Harden under 30 points, that's a win for them.
The Nuggets are making 295.5 passes per game this season, which is much better than their league-worst rate last season. Michael Malone wants the ball to move around the court, from side to side, helping create open shot attempts. This is especially important when Jameer Nelson is out of the lineup. The second unit, with Randy Foye and Will Barton in as guards, don't have a traditional point guard to help create opportunities. Danilo Gallinari can isolate and be effective, but it's not something the Nuggets have gone to frequently. When the Nuggets move the ball, with their bigs setting screens above the free throw line and diving to the rim. J.J. Hickson has done an excellent job this season diving to the rim, and taking advantage of the openings ball movement creates when defenses rotate. Kenneth Faried and Nikola Jokic could learn a thing or two from the veteran.
Prediction: 112-104, Nuggets
Today is the first day of the NCAA basketball season - somewhere out there is the Denver Nuggets next draft pick (maybe). Ben Simmons is legit, but if the Nuggets don't get the No. 1 pick in the lottery, Jaylen Brown with the Cal Bears is a player I'll be watching. Such skills.