The Denver Nuggets (43-19) take to the floor tonight for their first action since Sunday night’s thrilling overtime victory over the LA Clippers. They’re heading south for a matchup with the Houston Rockets (13-47). Tonight is a brief one-game road trip for the Nuggets before heading home for three straight games while tonight starts a set of four out of five games at home for the Rockets.

The Nuggets raced out to a big lead against the Clippers on Sunday, but they couldn’t hold off Kawhi Leonard who just steadily willed his team back into the game. Ultimately, it came down to who’s star was brightest with Nikola Jokic capping off his third 40+ point, 15+ rebound and 10+ assist game of the season with a lob to Bruce Brown. The Nuggets can clinch the season series with a win tonight after taking both games against the Rockets back in November, and they can also win their 10th straight game in this series, which is a streak that started back in January of 2020.

For the Rockets, this season has not gone as they would have hoped. They’ve dealt with some injuries here and there, but, for the most part, the team has just underperformed. They’re focusing on the development of their young players like Jalen Green, but Alperen Sengun has been the highlight of the year for them thus far. The second-year player from Turkey notched his first two triple doubles of his career in January, and he’s the only player in the rotation that has a positive Box Plus/Minus at this point in the year.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (43-19, 15-15 away) @ Houston Rockets (13-47, 8-20 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: Toyota Center

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

Rival Blog: The Dream Shake

Expected Starting Lineups:

HOU: PG Kevin Porter Jr., SG Jalen Green, SF Kenyon Martin Jr., PF Jabari Smith Jr., C Alperen Sengun

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Jamal Murray (back) QUESTIONABLE, Zeke Nnaji (shoulder) OUT, Collin Gillsespie (leg) OUT, Aaron Gordon (rib) PROBABLE, Kevin Porter Jr. (foot) QUESTIONABLE, Jae’Sean Tate (rest) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Get to Work Early

Following a game that saw four of the five starters play 37 or more minutes, with Aaron Gordon being the lone outlier after fouling out, Denver could very easily start slow in this one. Jamal Murray enters tonight with a back injury that has him questionable. If he does play, it would be great to get him some rest minutes later in the game. However, if they’re clawing back from a deficit or in a tight battle late, that will become more difficult. Do the work early in the game, and you will get the reward of rest at the end.

Mix in the Bench

It’s something that doesn’t get talked about much, but it needs to be said. The Rockets are actively tanking. Sengun has played fewer than 25 minutes in each of their last three games. Only one of those was a loss by more than 17 points. Denver needs to get a lead and get some of their younger guys on the bench more minutes. Otherwise, the playoffs are going to roll around, and those guys aren’t going to be ready.

Keep the Lid on Jalen Green

With Eric Gordon gone along with Kevin Porter Jr. still dealing with a lingering injury, Sengun and Jalen Green are the two major offensive threats for the Rockets. Green struggled against Denver earlier this year, but he remains the true definition of a microwave scorer where it just takes one or two shots falling for him to get hot. If he does, he can turn this game into a track meet in a hurry.