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Preview: Denver Nuggets look for first win against Houston Rockets

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (0-2) are preparing for a matchup with the Houston Rockets (0-1) as the two teams look to get back to the winning ways that they are used to. The Nuggets have opened their season with a pair of losses following a shorter offseason after a run to the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Rockets have been dealing with a lot of locker room turmoil with disgruntled superstar James Harden.

For Denver, they need to get things turned around in a hurry. It’s early in the season, but the Western Conference doesn’t leave any room for error. If the Memphis Grizzlies are able to get their first win over the Brooklyn Nets, the only winless team in the conference will be the loser of this game. For the Rockets, they’re operating on borrowed time with Harden right now. He’s looking to leave, but, as long as he’s there, he can keep them in any game by himself.

If Denver is looking to compete with the top of the conference again this year, they need to come out and win this game. If they’re unable to do so, they have a number of road matchups coming up that will make getting back on track more difficult. For the Rockets, they’re trying to get back to the playoffs again, but that’s going to be difficult with rocky chemistry and a laundry list of injuries.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (0-2, 0-2 home) vs Houston Rockets (0-1, 0-1 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up on Zoom. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: The Dream Shake

Expected Starting Lineups:

HOU: PG James Harden, SG Sterling Brown, SF Danuel House, PF P.J. Tucker, C Christian Wood

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Paul Millsap, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon, Mason Jones, Kenyon Martin, Ben McLemore, John Wall, JaMychal Green, Greg Whittington

Three Things to Watch

Can they contain James Harden?

Harden doesn’t want to be in Houston. We all know that. He is in the middle of his prime, and he wants a trade. Until that happens, he’s going to carry his trade value with a high level of play on the court. Can Gary Harris stop him? If not, Denver is going to be in for a long night. Gary is the only starter that is a capable defender of his own spot, and, unless they deploy a strategy of letting Harden cook while slowing down everyone else, it could be a long night.

Where is bubble Jamal Murray?

There is a legitimate case to be made that Jamal Murray was the Nuggets’ best player during the NBA restart in the bubble in Orlando. He shot nearly 50/50/90 from the floor. He was unconscious some nights. In the first two games, he has barely been conscious. He’s averaging just 16.0 points per game with a slash line of .345/.250/.889. Jokic is great, but he needs help from his budding star teammate.

Stop Christian Wood

Harden is the straw that stirs the Rockets’ drink. Until Wall returns from an injury, that will be the case. However, the early revelation has been center Christian Wood. He put up a double-double in the team’s first outing, and he did so while shooting over 60 percent from the floor. With all of Houston’s injuries, he is the only player that gives you any pause outside of Harden. If Denver can contain him, they can win even if Harden is cooking.