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Preview: The Denver Nuggets continue homestead, host the Houston Rockets

The Nuggets hope to stay out of the play-in game with a much needed win tonight.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a very disappointing 119-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at home, the Denver Nuggets look to bounce back against a team in a similar situation, the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are off a tough OT loss to the Utah Jazz (The Jazz’s first OT win since 2018) but they are in a race with the Orlando Magic for being the worst team in the league. Denver needs this win far more than the Rockets do.

The Nuggets need a win tonight to get back in contention for the 4th and 5th seeds, they are currently 2.5 games back from the Dallas Mavericks who are in 5th. Denver is also only 2.5 games in front of the 7th seeded Minnesota Timberwolves, with the T-Wolves playing well the Nuggets are on the edge of being in the Play-In Tournament.

The Nuggets are 2-0 versus the Rockets this season. One of which being a very memorable game to me. On January 1st these teams matched up and Denver won 124-111. The biggest stories from that game were Facu Campazzo’s career-high 22 points, Kevin Porter Jr. having an “Outburst” and leaving the arena at half-time, and Christian Wood only playing 8 minutes off the bench.

The Essentials:

Who?: The Denver Nuggets (17-11 at home) Vs. The Houston Rockets (7-26 on the road)

When?: 7:00 p.m. (MST)

Where?: Ball Arena, Denver Colorado

How to Watch/Listen?: AltitudeTV and NBA League Pass if you are lucky. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Injuries:

Den: Zeke Nnaji QUESTIONABLE (Knee), Jamal Murray OUT (Knee), Michael Porter Jr. OUT (Back), Vlatko Čančar OUT (Foot)

Hou: Eric Gordon OUT (Groin), Usman Garuba OUT (Hand), Kevin Porter Jr. PROBABLE (Ankle), Garrison Matthews PROBABLE (Ankle), Dennis Schröder QUESTIONABLE (Ankle),

Projected Starting Lineup:

Den: Monte Morris (PG), Will Barton (SG), Aaron Gordon (SF), Jeff Green (PF), Nikola Jokić (C)

Hou: Kevin Porter Jr. (PG), Jalen Green (SG), Garrison Matthews (SF), Jae’Sean Tate (PF), Christian Wood (C)

Three Things to Watch For:

The Nuggets need to take this game seriously

Denver did not take the OKC game seriously and ended up losing it even though they should have won easily. The same thing can happen tonight if the Nuggets aren’t careful. While the Houston front office may appreciate a few more losses, the players won’t ever voluntarily lose a game. Denver just needs to get an early lead and take it from there, Jokić has no reason to be playing in the 4th quarter tonight.

Defense, Defense, Defense

The Nuggets have given up 100 or more points in 20 of their last 22 games. Denver can lose to any team if they are giving up that many points. The Nuggets will likely out-score the Rockets but they shouldn’t have to score 120+ in order to do so. Coach Michael Malone specifically called out the defense in the loss to the Thunder so let’s hope that he got through to the players and we can see an improvement in tonight’s game.

Playoff Lineups

With a Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. return coming up on the horizon, the Nuggets will need to cut minutes from the rotation. Tonight is a good chance for Coach Malone to see who he should take minutes from and who can really provide a significant impact. I would expect JaMychal Green and Austin Rivers to play substantially to show what they can give this team. I would not be surprised to see a decent amount of Facu and Davon Reed if the team is up big.