Apr 6, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) is defended by Denver Nuggets forward Jan Vesely (24) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets led big at the half Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets, going up 69-52 at the intermission. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Kevin McHale’s team would run away with it in the second half.
Then, the defense began to fall apart in the third quarter, and Denver outscored Houston 36-19 in the period to enter the fourth quarter tied.
The teams battled to a draw before the Rockets won 130-125 in overtime.
With Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson both injured, former Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks got the start at the 1-spot for Denver.
Brooks performed brilliantly against his former team, hitting 11-of-24 from the floor en route to 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds. Jeremy Lin had a tough time keeping pace with Brooks, who put the ball on the floor and ran around screens, wearing both Lin and backup point guard Isaiah Canaan out.
But it was Brooks who came up panting in the end. In the game’s closing moments, Brooks committed a turnover and a foul, which set up Houston’s James Harden for a game-tying three. Harden finished with a game high 32 points and 10 assists. Harden attempted 12 free throws in the game, marking his fifth straight game with 10 free throws or more. Harden is now averaging 25.3 points per game on the season with a 23.22 PER.
In many senses, this game had the feel of a three-point shootout. The Nuggets attempted 31 three point shots and Houston shot 36. It was a game stressing perimeter play, since Dwight Howard of the Rockets was still on the shelf. Omer Asik once again was a monster on the boards in Howard’s absence, and he had 23 rebounds (7 offensive), tying his career high, to go with 18 points, three steals and three blocks.
The Rockets got solid play from just about everyone who played tonight, with the possible exception of Donatas Motiejunas. D-Mo missed all three of his field goal attempts and even badly missed both his free throws. He seems to be losing confidence.
Canaan looked like a seasoned vet running the show and he hit 4-of-7 from behind the arc in the game. The Murray State product finished with 15 points and two assists.
Chandler Parsons didn’t have one of his best games of the season, but he did hit back-to-back threes in overtime to help the Rockets pull away and seal it up. There’s not a lot of times when a team can go negative-4 on the boards and allow a team to hit 45 percent from three on 31 attempts and still win, but the Nuggets really didn’t do a very good job of defending either, but that has been an issue for Brian Shaw’s team all season.