The No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets come to H-town tonight for a Western conference match up with the No. 5 seed Houston Rockets.
The Houston Rockets, winners of 6 out of their last 7 games and 11 of their last 13, are on an absolute tear and have catapulted to 5th in the West led by reigning MVP James Harden. Prior to their lost in Portland Saturday night where he scored 38 points, he scored at least 41 points in 5 straight games joining Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as the only players to accomplish that astounding feat.
Clint Capela continues his year over year improvement and has placed his name in the running for All Star consideration this season. He is averaging 17.6 rebounds in his last 8 contests and is up to 12.9 per game, good for 6th in the League.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, are first in the West at 26-11 and have won 8 of 10. They are above .500 on the road and have a +5.4 point differential, 2nd in the West. Nikola Jokic is their mainstay. He averages 19/10, but his overall skill set, particularly his passing ability, is what sets him apart from most big men.
Jokic leads his team with 7.5 assists per game, unheard of for a big. Jamal Murray plays well off of Jokic and is the team’s most explosive player, scoring wise, averaging 18.5 ppg. This is the first game of a road back to back for Denver, who visits Miami tomorrow night,
Time to start another streak
For the Rockets to start another win streak, they need to get continued production from the “others”. Newly acquired Austin Rivers, H-Town natives Gerald Green and Danuel House Jr. and the venerable Nene must continue their contributions as fill in starters and bench players, respectively.
Denver is around the bottom of the league in pace and use Jokic as a point center in the half court. They will look to exploit the rim by having him on the perimeter to draw Capela out of the paint for back door cuts. The Rockets ever improving switching defense can contain the back-end and allow for Capela to get back into the paint to protect the rim.
The Rockets won the first of four games with the Nuggets this season back in November, 109-99. In that game the 3rd quarter was the difference as their defense held Denver to 21 point en route to that 10 point win.
The Nuggets are playing great basketball right now, but the Houston Rockets haven’t lost at home since a November 28 loss to Luka Doncic and the Mavs. That is nine straight. I’m going with the “H”, 112-103.