The Denver Nuggets came into tonight’s contest undefeated at home. Their opponent, the Houston Rockets, came into tonight without a win on the road. Both of those things ceased to be facts after the Rockets survived a furious Nuggets rally in their own house. Jalen Green had a big night and the Rockets got an all around effort from their starters. Nikola Jokic’s shooting woes continued for three more quarters and there wasn’t enough help from his teammates to overcome another off night. Denver finally found their mojo in the fourth quarter and mounted a huge effort to make an epic comeback but ultimately ran out of time. Houston survives and defeats the Nuggets 114-106.

Scoring was hard to come by early, Jokic looked like he was still in his slump from the last game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got Denver’s first field goal just before the nine minute mark. Murray found his stroke as the quarter progressed, he canned a pair of threes to get Denver a small lead. The Nuggets built it up to seven to make Houston take a timeout. They came out of the break and immediately responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game. Denver’s game was completely flat. There was no movement and the Nuggets offense stalled completely. Houston build up a lead of their own that was getting close to double digits by the time the benches came in. Denver’s reserves played some tough defense and found a little success on the Reggie Jackson/DeAndre Jordan pick and roll so the Rockets lead didn’t grow but after one Denver still trailed 27-22.

The bench D kept it up to start the second. Houston was unable to score a point in over three minutes to start the quarter but unfortunately the Nuggets also couldn’t make any shots and weren’t able to take advantage much. They did do just enough to take back the lead for a possession before Fred VanVleet knocked down a three to give Houston their first points of the quarter. Porter Jr. staggered with the bench and started knocking down some shots but Houston also found their offensive rhythm so the score stayed close. Denver trailed 39-36 when the starters came back in. Jokic’s struggles continued as did Denver’s struggles with rebounding and keeping Houston out of the paint. The Nuggets wouldn’t let it get too far out of reach but still struggled to close the gap. KCP hit a buzzer beater three to get Denver within four. At the half Houston lead 52-48.

Jokic finally got a little something going in the beginning of the second half, he grabbed a quick pair of field goals but the Rockets had plenty of offense behind VanVleet. Houston’s lead got up to nine when the Nuggets responded behind Murray and multiple fouls from Dillon Brooks. They pulled within three with just under eight minutes left in the quarter. Houston got it going again after a timeout behind Jalen Green and pushed the lead right back up to nine with over half the quarter gone. Denver’s starter’s continued to struggle and once again had little offense to show for it. Houston’s lead pushed to double digits. Denver’s bench had the energy the starters didn’t and made some plays to give Denver a run and steal back some momentum. Unfortunately, Houston closed out the third strong, punctuating it with a JaeSean Tate buzzer beater three and after three Denver trailed 92-74.

The Rockets knocked down threes while Denver fought for twos to open the fourth quarter and the game looked like it was quickly headed to garbage time. The lead was above twenty and the prospect of the starters returning to the game seemed slim. Houston had a parade to the free throw line but interestingly Michael Malone brought Jokic and Murray back in with Denver down twenty-five and about eight minutes remaining. That sparked a run for the Nuggets. They trimmed the lead to eighteen and made Houston take a timeout. The Nuggets got another four points in a row, another Houston timeout and the momentum was all on Denver’s side but you had to wonder if they had enough time. The Rockets flat out couldn’t score, even when they got to the free throw line. Denver’s crowd was in it and Murray pulled the Nuggets within nine with three and a half minutes to go. They got it down to seven but with the time being such a factor little mistakes were a killer. A turnover, a soft foul, giving up a pair of offensive rebounds, normally things Denver could overcome but with under two minutes it proved to be their undoing. Denver kept trying to fight back until the end but the refs made sure to call a couple techs on Murray and get the Rockets the win. Houston closed it out at the free throw line and win 114-106.

Best matchup: Dillon Brooks vs Jamal Murray

Nov 29, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Houston Rockets forward Dillon Brooks (9) falls to the court after colliding with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) as he screens for guard Jamal Murray (27) as center Alperen Sengun (28) defends in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Murray had a nice performance as he continues to round into form after returning from injury. He had his range going and we also started to see the shake and bake that makes him such a huge weapon. He still doesn’t look quite all the way back but it was definitely a step in the right direction, particularly when matched up against a defender like Brooks. Dillon also played well and was a factor on both ends of the court. He had a few threes to help Houston’s big early runs that got them the lead and played his signature tough defense all night.

Peyton Watson is a stud

I continue to be impressed by Peyton. His defense is already top notch to the point where if he was a starter I think you’d have just as big of a campaign for him to make all-defense as there is for KCP. He’s showing more and more maturity with the ball in his hands and is particularly effective when playing with the starters where he just has to play his role. Peyton also brings the energy night in and night out and that was needed big time tonight. Ultimately Denver couldn’t pull off the comeback but their huge run late in the game was sparked by Watson’s energy. As soon as he starts to knock down his jump shots with some regularity then watch out for the rest of the NBA. The future is definitely bright for PWat.

Jokic’s slump continues and the Thing to Bet misses

No over on Jokic points tonight as he had another tough night shooting. It was oddly alarming to see Joker continue to miss shots he regularly hits. I say oddly alarming because two game shooting slumps are fairly common for even the best of players but to see Jokic missing five foot floaters is just so off putting. He did seem to find his touch at the end of the game so hopefully despite not being able to get the win, Denver’s comeback efforts will serve to break Joker out of his funk.