Hello Rockets my old friend, I’ve come to play basketball with you again. A quirk of the NBA Cup tournament being unveiled this season is it means the Denver Nuggets, who were eliminated in the group stage of Cup play, will play the Houston Rockets for the fourth time in a month. So yes, my friends, once again we will see the rising Alperen Sengun, the talented if inefficient Jalen Green, the savvy veteran additions Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. The introduction of the NBA Cup schedule simply goes to show that the more things change the more they stay the same…like the same opponent…every week. In Denver’s favor, and perhaps adding a little juice to the equation, this will be the first time this season they’ve faced the Rockets with a fully healthy squad.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (14-8) vs Houston Rockets (9-9)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5FM. Be the great grandson of Soapy Smith, inherit his gift of swindling and talk your way through the main gate.

Rival Blog: The Dream Shake

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Rockets Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Fred VanVleet Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Jalen Green Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Dillon Brooks Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Jabari Smith Jr. Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Alperen Sengun Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Julian Strawther, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan Jaesean Tate, Tari Eason, Aaron Holiday, Jeff Green Even


Injury report: Jamal Murray – probable (ankle), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Colin Gillespie – out (G-League), Jay Huff – out (G-League), Braxton Key – out (G-League); Jock Landale – questionable (illness), Victor Oladipo – out (knee), Amen Thompson – out (G-League), Nate Hinton – out (G-League), Jermaine Samuels Jr. – out (G-League), Cam Whitmore – out (G-League).

The Three Things

The Thing to watch for: Jamal Murray vs Fred Van Vleet

Mar 14, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) drives to the net against Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) during the second half at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be our first look at the Murray vs VanVleet matchup since Fred made his way to Houston. Both guys have the ability to score in bunches but also serve as quality traditional point guards when required. The Nuggets have for the most part done a good job of keeping VanVleet bottled up in their previous meetings and Jamal will need to continue the defensive effort. He still looks a bit rusty from the ankle and hamstring injuries so the Nuggets will benefit greatly if he gets all the way back to top form tonight. Keeping VanVleet at bay will also insulate the team from getting absolutely killed by Houston’s back court if Green is having one of his good shooting nights.

The thing to remember: Houston is abysmal on the road

The calendar has turned over to December and the Rockets still find themselves without a single win on the road. Whether its been grind it out games or track meets, the Rockets seem unable to dictate what they want to do on the road and end up trying to match whatever their opponent’s style is on the way to a loss. They’re far too talented to not overcome this but it will probably take a big game from a vet like VanVleet or Brooks to make it happen. The younger guys may start getting it in their head that they just can’t get it done away from Houston. Don’t expect too much to change tonight though. As the counter to Houston, Denver has yet to lose a game within the confines of Ball Arena.

The thing to bet: Nikola Jokic over 30.5 points (+115)

Jokic had his worst shooting night in recent memory in Denver’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this week and I expect a bounce back performance from the big fella tonight. Joker has also scored thirty-two points or more in each of the matchups with Houston this season. His official line for points tonight is 29.5, but I like bumping that up by one point to get us to plus territory.

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