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Houston Rockets Game Day: Hunting 3 in a Row

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Game Day:

Record: 26-42,  Western: 12,                                               Record: 45-22,  Western: 3,

Northwest: 4th, last ten 6-4                                                     Southwest: 2nd, last ten 6-4

Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets

Thu Mar 19, 8:00 PM EST – ALT, CSNH, RTSW

Toyota Center – Houston, TX

Recent Matchups

Mar 8 HOU 114-100 DEN          Dec 18 HOU 115-111 DEN       Dec 14 DEN 96-108 HOU

Apr 10 HOU 116-123 DEN          Apr 6 DEN 125-130 HOU

Latest Results:

[table id=49 /]

Stats:

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Walking Wounded:

Nuggets:

  • Kenneth Faried didn’t play on Monday listed as personal reasons
  • Danilo Gallinari didn’t play on Monday joining the many players who were sat for rest. Odd given the Nuggets are well out of the race so weird unless it’s maintenance, but then whey not list it as that.
  • Both players are likely to suit up Thursday

Rockets:

  • Patrick Beverley is questionable with a sore elbow
  • Jason Terry missed Tuesday and is listed as questionable for tonight with a sore hamstring
  • Kostas Papanikolaou has been updated to being out until late March with an ankle sprain
  • Dwight Howard has progressed to practicing with the team and remains on schedule to return some time in the next 7 to 10 days. The team has maintained his end of March return date.

Bench Mob:

[table id=48 /]

While Houston had experienced a steady rise up the reserve production ladder they’ve hit a bit of a wall and now are dropping off. Part of this is due to the increased effort by benches, trades made at the deadline and injuries. In the case of opponents they may be getting injured players back while Houston has had to heavily rely on their bench in the absence of Howard.  Terrence Jones has played as a reserve and a starter which might explain the slight drop off given his numbers could make that difference.  Corey Brewer has been stellar of late and Josh Smith is  showing signs of contributing on both ends.

Key Match-up:

As I touched earlier this month it’s funny seeing how much a team can turn things around just because of a coaching change however that’s exactly what happened in Denver. The “Manimal” Kenneth Faried has looked and played exceedingly better which means Denver will look to take advantage inside versus the Howard-less Rockets. I would imagine the defensive coverage will be split between Terrence Jones and Motiejunasm though Josh could get a spell facing Faried

The other key players to watch will be the always bullet fast Ty Lawson and well rested big man Danillo Gallinara.

For Houston the question is which James Harden will arrive…. the facilitator, the scorer or the MVP? That question has been in doubt the past few games as Harden appears to be distributing the ball more. Is he fatigued? I think the answer is as obvious as his fourth quarters. Even in games where he’s rolling it’s the final frame where we are seeing his signature step back three shot not falling. To me, that’s an obvious sign of fatigue. Yet, he continues to do what he has all season, which is to rise to the adversity and discover another way to take you down. Over the past few games that’s been to score the majority of his points early and then distribute the ball late to open teammates when he is either guarded by the oppositions best or double teamed.

Both benches provide quality reserves, but with the potential for Beverley and Terry to miss tonight it could make for a big night from the Denver reserves facing such a depleted Rockets squad.

On a whole Houston has dominated Denver winning 4 of 5 over the course of their past 5 meetings.

Leaders

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson 15.9 points per game
  • Kenneth Faried 8.9 rebounds per game
  • Ty Lawson 9.7 assists per game
  • Jusuf Nurkic 1.3 blocks per game
  • Ty Lawson 1.3 steals per game

Rockets:

  • James Harden 26.7 points per game
  • Dwight Howard 11 rebounds per game
  • James Harden 7.0 assists per game
  • Terrence Jones 1.7 blocks per game
  • James Harden 1.9 steals per game

Keys to Winning:

  • Beverley (if he plays) and Harden will face ultra fast point guard Ty Lawson. Limiting his ability to drive the paint and cutting down his passing lanes will be a key emphasis for the Rockets.
  • Denver has a bunch of speedy players so controlling the pace and turnovers should be a part of the game plan
  • Denver has one of the better rebounding teams in the Association ranking 6th so it will be imperative to crash the boards and utilize ball movement to keep Denver moving on defense
  • Both teams rank in the top 5 for pace so expect lots of ball and player movement. Harden who’ll handle the ball for the most part (especially if Beverley can’t go) will need to read the game situation and his decision on the pace could well be the determining factor in the outcome.

The Pick:

The odds makers favor Houston by 8 points. I tend to think it will be a lower scoring game of 3 or 4 points. These two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Denver interim head coach Melvin Hunt sat “his big 3” Lawson, Faried and Gallinara Monday, a rather odd move from a team who have nothing to rest for (no playoffs). Could he be trying to win favor with his stars?  While Houston trots out James Harden nightly he’s missed just one game all year and that was because of a suspension.

There will be a special tribute at the half tonight honoring the back to back Championship Rocket teams of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995.

Next: Why the Rockets won't make NBA Finals

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