The Houston Rockets cruised to an easy win over the Lakers on Tuesday night, and Wednesday night’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets represented the second of a back-to-back.
Given the Rockets’ shortened bench, fatigue was a problem right out of the gates. The Rockets did not appear to have the energy needed to run with Denver, and the Nuggets started on a 30-11 run.
Houston was able to close it to 30-18 at the end of the first period, but it was clear the Rockets didn’t have the energy to run with Brian Shaw’s Nuggets.
The Nuggets won the game 123-116, behind an impressive game from power forward Kenneth Faried. Faried and Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov both had big games and were simply rewarded for running the floor.
Omer Asik had a decent game from an offensive standpoint (12 points, 12 rebounds), but he was routinely outplayed by Mozgov on the post.
Rockets 4-man Terrence Jones was heavily winded late in the first quarter and couldn’t keep pace with Faried, as he finished the first quarter with 10 points and four rebounds. He had 19 points at the half and finished with 23.
James Harden missed all five of his first half field goals, and the Rockets were shooting just 40 percent as a team at the half. And the defense just wasn’t that aggressive. Despite the fast paced game, the Nuggets turned it over just 11 times, while Houston had 15 turnovers. The Nuggets were able to get good looks, and Faried and Mozgov were lethal inside.
Denver shot 49.5 percent from the floor. Randy Foye of the Nuggets went absolutely crazy in the third quarter, scoring 22 in the period. Foye finished with 30 points and 15 assists and the Nuggets starting backcourt outscored the Rockets 43-28. Jeremy Lin did play respectably, scoring 18 points and dishing out six assists.
The Rockets were not just tired, though; the cold shooting spread throughout the team. Isaiah Canaan hit just 1-of-8 from behind the arc. The Rockets bench shot 16-of-33 outside of Canaan.
Denver did have trouble closing the Rockets out. Houston trailed 116-104 with about five minutes to go, and the Rockets were able to chip that lead down to 118-114 with two minutes to go in the quarter. Kevin McHale was using a unit of young reserves that included Donatas Motiejunas and Canaan; Robert Covington, Troy Daniels and Jordan Hamilton.
Daniels hit 4-of-5 from behind the arc and the Rockets were plus-15 for his 11 minutes. Evan Fornier hit a three to distance the Nuggets before a Houston timeout, and the Rockets would draw no closer.
James Harden had one of his roughest games of the season, and he just looked tired. His shots were flat; he wasn’t as aggressive. Three of his five looks in the first half were three-pointers. Harden finished the evening just 1-of-9 from the floor, though he did hit 8-of-8 from the free throw line to finish with 10 points and six assists.