Early in the season teams need to be careful of underestimating opponents expected not to be in the mix at season end or looking ahead to the next game. That may well have been what happened as the Houston Rockets faced the Denver Nuggets in their home opener and lost badly behind a poor effort on both ends.
Pregame emphasis was on the battle of the point guards given Ty Lawson ‘s trade seemingly occurred partially due to personality conflicts, but also because the Nuggets top draft pick Emmanuel Mudiay was deemed the future of the team. From the tip the Nuggets jumped on the Rockets going up 12 to 1 and though Houston made runs Denver never relinquished the lead.
In Mudiay’s first meeting versus the man he replaced it’s safe to say the rookie won the battle scoring 17 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing 9 assists. The slight on his night however was his 11 turnovers (yes, you read that correctly).
As predicted in our pregame Montrezl Harrell got minutes early based on a shortage of front court depth with Dwight Howard and Donatas Motiejunas being out and the rookie responded. Although the Rockets were trailing after the first quarter (27-21) it was Harrell who was leading all Rockets players in scoring with 8 points.
By the half the Rockets had cut the deficit to 4 trailing the Nuggets 49-53 and had improved their field goal percentage from a low of 33.3% in the first quarter to 41.3%, however they allowed Denver to shoot 52.5%.
Expecting the Rockets to come out with energy in the second half it was more of the same from Denver who won the third quarter 23-14 and out scored the home team 52-36 in the second half. Stand out performances for the Nuggets came courtesy of Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried who took advantage of the Rockets lack of depth up front.
While I had a hard time watching the game due to a fuzzy League Pass screen it was almost a blessing in disguise as this game was a real stinker.
The Rockets shot poorly with James Harden in particular having an off night shooting 6 for 21 from the field and he was abysmal from behind the arc going 2 of 12. By night’s end he had a team high 22 points and added 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. For a full recap of the Rockets production check out the box score from the game here.
Capela protecting the paint tonight. https://t.co/EE0eBsDAFG
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 29, 2015
Suffice to say the Rockets definitely underestimated the Nuggets and were likely looking ahead to Friday’s game versus the team who ended their season (the Golden State Warriors). In fact the next 3 opponents for Houston are the Warriors, Heat and Thunder, so if they aren’t careful they could be 0 and 4 in a heartbeat.
Although James Harden isn’t going to shoot like he did tonight on a frequent basis the team needs to take this loss to heart.
Of note there was a half time tribute for former Rockets great Moses Malone who passed away unexpectedly this summer.
Next up the Rockets face Golden State at home and better bring effort right from the tip. Fortunately they’ll have Howard back, and need to be cognizant of not allowing GSW and more specifically Stephen Curry to replicate their first quarter from their home opener when Curry scored 24 points.
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. As always stay with Space City Scoop for all things Houston Rockets.
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