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Preview: Nuggets Look to Stop James Harden, Rockets

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The Denver Nuggets will look to bounce back from a 120-111 loss to the Spurs last night, when they return home to face the Houston Rockets. The Nuggets will try to improve to 3-1, under interim head coach Melvin Hunt.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Game 63: 2014-15 NBA Season

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42-20 (18-11 on road)
Series 2-0
22-40 (13-18 at home)
March 7th, 2015
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Patrick Beverley PG Ty Lawson
James Harden SG Randy Foye
Trevor Ariza SF Danilo Gallinari
Terrence Jones PF Wilson Chandler
Donatas Motiejunas C Kenneth Faried
Notes
The Dream Shake Blogs Denver Stiffs
Dwight Howard(out) - Knee 
Injuries Jusuf Nurkic(out) - Ankle
The Rockets are 22-4 in games where James Harden has at least 10 free throw attempts. Etc... Denver will try and move to 3-1 under Melvin Hunt

The Nuggets have looked like a different team since firing coach Brian Shaw and inserting in long time assistant Melvin Hunt, as the team's new interim head coach. Denver has averaged 105.6 points per game, 15.3 fast break points per game and is shooting 48% from the field, in the three games with Hunt at the helm. Two players who have benefited greatly since Hunt took over, are Jameer Nelson and Kenneth Faried.

Nelson has been a spark off the bench for Denver, over the past three games and is succeeding in Hunt's pick and roll offense. The tenth year veteran is averaging 11.3 points, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game, over the past three for Denver. The Manimal has recorded 3 double-doubles, since Hunt took over as coach and is playing without the leash that Shaw had on him earlier this season. Faried is averaging 17.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, while shooting 56% from the field in Denver's last three games.

For the Rockets, no other player than James Harden has been more key to their 42-20 record this season. Harden is one of the top MVP candidates this season and is coming off his third triple-double of the year, in the team's 103-93 win over the Detroit Pistons last night. Harden had his first triple-double of the season back in December, against Denver in the Rockets 108-96 win. In both Houston's wins over Denver this season, Harden has averaged 32.5 points, 10.0 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 15.0 free throw attempts per game.The Beard is currently ranked first in offensive win shares and total win shares, this season according to Basketball Reference.

Player to Watch

Donatas Motiejunas - The second year Lithuanian forward, has killed the Nuggets in both of the Rockets wins over them this season. Motiejunas has averaged 21.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in those wins, while shooting 56% from the field and 55% from beyond the arc. Faried, Arthur and the rest of Denver's frontcourt will have to do a better job of forcing Motiejunas to work for open shots, if they want any chance of beating Houston.

Prediction

I love the way Denver has been playing under interim head coach Melvin Hunt and believe, they will continue to improve under his lead. I'm very intrigued by the Gallo vs. Ariza match-up at the three, Gallo has played great since the All-Star break(18.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals per game on 41% shooting from three) and I think he will be the main playmaker for the Nuggets in this game. While I think Gallo will play well and I think the newly unleashed Kenneth Faried will have another double-double, Denver still will come up short here. I expect Harden to have a near triple-double and probably shoot upwards of 15 free throws in this game, leading the Rockets to another close win in the Mile High City.