The Denver Nuggets came into their game against the Houston Rockets tonight severely undermanned. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Michael Porter Jr. all were unable to go leaving the Nuggets to reach deep into their depth to field a roster. The Rockets proved to be too much behind their star players as they dominated the offensive glass and the three point line. James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon all had big nights scoring. The game got out of hand in the second quarter and the Nuggets never came close to making a comeback. Ultimately Houston comes out on top 121-105.
The Nuggets’ mash unit got out to a good enough start with Jerami Grant shooting threes and Torrey Craig attacking the basket. On the Rockets end Clint Capela was doing what he does best, running the floor, setting screens and getting easy hoops near the basket. The Rockets were not playing very crisp basketball and had quite a few turnovers which let Denver get an early lead. It wouldn’t last unfortunately as Harden eventually found his footing and quickly erased Denver’s advantage. Denver was able to keep pace with the quarter coming to a close and the benches checking in but defense was lacking overall and Houston slowly built their own lead. Ultimately the strong close got Houston thirty-five points in the quarter and a seven point lead.
The pressure stayed on the Nuggets to start the second quarter. Denver was into their deep bench with Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Dozier checking in. The Rockets quickly pushed the lead to double digits. The Nuggets bench just lacked in firepower to keep up with the Rockets who kept either Harden or Westbrook on the floor. With Capela on Jokic Denver really started to struggle to find points. Meanwhile Harden continued to have his way on the offensive end and it looked like the wind was already leaving the Nuggets sails. The starters came back in and stopped the bleeding, but Houston’s defense (or Nuggets lack of offense) kept them from getting closer. Capela dominated the glass as the half came to a close and the Rockets went to the locker room up big.
The Nuggets started the second half by working through Jokic in the post and they found some success there but Houston’s Big Three was giving the Nuggets all they could handle. Capela was crushing the offensive glass, Westbrook was dunking on Joker and Harden was canning threes. After falling behind by nineteen the Nuggets went on a small run of their own and pulled within fourteen before Westbrook answered with a three of his own. There wasn’t much to speak of in the way of scoring outside of Jokic for the Nuggets but Grant was having a solid game and got a couple buckets to keep the Nuggets in the fourteen point range and force a Houston timeout. Out of the TO it was Austin Rivers doing the damage with back to back threes. That was a strong theme through the night, Houston hitting threes while the Nuggets missed them, and that was true down the stretch of the third quarter as the Rockets extended their lead to over twenty by the end of it.
Houston looked pretty comfortable starting the fourth with a twenty-two point lead and promptly gave up a 6-0 run to force a Mike D’Antoni rage timeout. Westbrook calmed things down and naturally the Rockets hit another three to push the lead right back up. The bright spot for Denver was Dozier who came alive in the fourth and was pretty much the sole source of offense for a two minute stretch for the Nuggets. Meanwhile Gordon continued to knock down threes on Houston’s side and by the halfway point of the fourth D’Antoni was emptying his bench. Jokic continued to be solid and worked his way to his eighth triple-double before Malone too went to his bench, even finding some time for rookie Vlatko Cancar. He knocked down a three and Dozier got a couple more buckets but the damage was done. Rockets win going away.