The Denver Nuggets visited the Houston Rockets in a must win game for the NBA Cup. They didn’t start well and fell behind big when the bench came in (again) which left them chasing a comeback the rest of the night. It was another big night from Nikola Jokic that was squandered as he got almost no support. Houston meanwhile got big performances from Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green on the way to a dominant victory.

Jokic came out firing for the Nuggets and hit the first two baskets of the game but the Rockets responded with a full team effort. They scored the next thirteen points including going three for three from the three point line. They couldn’t keep up the blistering pace though and Denver started closing the gap but were still cold from the floor. They locked in on defense and went on a 9-0 run of their own to take back the lead. It went back and forth from there with the Nuggets still up one with three minutes to go. Shortly after that Jokic checked out and the bench continued to struggle. Houston rattled off an 11-0 run to close the quarter and the Nuggets trailed 29-19.

The second quarter started with the ragiest of rage timeouts by Michael Malone just 30 seconds in. It didn’t do anything to help. Two minutes later he was calling a timeout again with the Nuggets still without a point in the second quarter and the Rockets lead ballooning to seventeen. Jokic came back in and immediately hit a mid-range jumper but then went cold from the floor as well. That let Houston push the lead to above twenty. Every time it seemed like the Nuggets were getting some traction they’d commit a silly turnover and give up an easy basket to kill all their momentum. That pattern continued through the quarter while Malone tried different combinations around Jokic with nothing really working. They found a little momentum at the end of the quarter but at halftime still trailed 60-43.

Denver started out slow on offense again to start the second half before finally starting to get some rhythm. Unfortunately, Sengun carried the Houston offense which kept Denver from chipping away at the lead. Then the Rockets got hot from three and midway through the third their lead was back up to twenty. Jokic was trying to will the team to a comeback on his own but even he was having a tough time from the field. Like in the second, Denver rallied to close out the third. They got Houston’s lead down to fifteen at the end of three quarters.

Denver opened the fourth quarter with Jokic on the bench but were playing strong defense. They started whittling away at the lead and had it under ten with nine minutes left. They went back and forth a bit before Houston got on another run and pushed the lead back to fourteen. The Nuggets were running out of time. At about the halfway point in the quarter Green finished a response to another Nuggets run with a fast break dunk to push Houston’s lead to sixteen and it felt over. After that Aaron Gordon took a transition three that resulted in an air ball which was the cherry on top of his evening. Denver made one last push but just didn’t have enough time. Houston wins 105-86 and eliminates the Nuggets from NBA Cup competition.