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Houston Rockets @ Denver Nuggets 4/9/14

Teams: Houston Rockets (52-25) @ Denver Nuggets (33-44)
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Pepsi Center
Television: CSN Houston

Notes: 

The Rockets will be going for a three game season sweep of the Nuggets tonight, after winning the first two games 111-122 and 125-130.

While the Rockets were toying with the Lakers last night, the Nuggets have been resting since they played in Houston this past Sunday.  In that game, James Harden (game-high 32 points) was one of seven different Rockets who scored in double figures, and six scored 14 points or more.  Arron Brooks gave his best to upset his old team, putting up a line of 24-8-15.

In the first game of the season series way back in November, Ty Lawson was a beast going for 28 points and 17 assists.  But it was not enough to overcome another seven Rockets scoring in double figures, this time led by Dwight Howard’s 25.  The Nuggets tried unsuccessfully to “Hack-A-Shaq” Dwight, as Howard scored 18 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 13 of 19 free throws in a 2½-minute stretch. 

Injuries:

Dwight Howard will test his ankle in shootaround today and if all goes well he could play against the Nuggets.

Patrick Beverley will miss the game tonight.  There is still no timetable for his return, but with the way he is celebrating big plays on the bench it would not be a surprise if he were to return soon.

Ty Lawson (ankle) and Wilson Chandler (groin) will miss tonight’s game.  Darrell Arthur is listed as day-to-day but is expected to play.

Insider’s View – Q&A with Kalen Deremo of Roundball Mining Company.  Follow Kalen @PrincePickaxe.

MF – Who have the Nuggets missed more this year, George Karl or Andre Iguodala?  Or is it Masai Ujiri that they miss most?

KD – Definitely Masai Ujiri. Andre Iguodala was obviously huge for the Nuggets on the defensive side of the ball last year but the Nuggets had a much better team in general then, both on offense and defense. The Nuggets would have won more games this year with Karl as head coach but they still wouldn’t even be close to making the playoffs. I look at what Ujiri has done in Toronto and can’t help but think he’s the one indispensable asset the Nuggets chose to dispense of. Team chemistry, how the pieces fit together and simply having a roster with players who are innately inclined to play defense are three valuable resources the Nuggets lost when Ujiri left. However, if you want to know the real reason the Nuggets have struggled this season, I’d point towards injuries more than anything.

Zach Lowe had a good piece on the development of Kenneth Faried.  To me he’s becoming the ultimate table-test guy (copyright: Simmons).  He brings energy, rebounding and some post work, but he lacks defense and shooting.  Do you see any room left for development in Faried’s game where he could become a starter for a championship team (when paired with the right big man, for a change)?

It’s crazy. Five months ago I would have said no — hell no, in fact. Everybody thought he was just an energy guy who could come off the bench as a spark. At the beginning of the year all anybody could talk about was how limited Faried was, how he’s already reached his ceiling and that the Nuggets should explore trade scenarios for him while his value was still high. Yet here we are in April, with only a few games left in the season, and Faried might very well be the Nuggets best post player and second best all-around player on the roster. He’s averaged 19 points, 10 boards, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game since the All-Star break. His game has evolved more in one year than I ever thought it would his entire career. So, to answer your question: absolutely. Faried still needs to improve his defense, but once he gets that down, he could very well be on his way to an All-Star appearance or two if he keeps playing the way he has this spring.

Danilo Gallinari is one of my favorite players in the league.  I was pretty upset when he hurt his knee last April and even more so when he had a second surgery this January.  What happened there and why did he wait so long to address the ACL?

I’m not a doctor and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night (bad joke… sorry) so I’m not sure if I’m really qualified to answer that. All I know is that originally it was classified as a torn ACL, then it was revealed it wasn’t an ACL tear, then after having one surgery he needed total reconstructive surgery on his ACL. So whether it was torn or not — I don’t know. Again, I’m sure someone else can answer that better than I. The bottom line is that it appears somebody, though I’m not sure who, tried to take a shortcut (though I’m hesitant to use that word) hoping Gallo could return this season rather than just addressing what needed to be addressed way back when he blew out his knee in the first place. That’s what I’ve gathered from everything I’ve read.

What do you expect out of the Nuggets this offseason?

Honestly, I have no idea. The Nuggets new front office has been pretty hard to read since replacing Masai Ujiri and Co. last summer. They’ve had some good moves and some really bad ones. Brian Shaw went on record yesterday saying the team needs to rearrange the roster a bit this summer, which was encouraging. The problem is: I’m not so sure the Nuggets have the right people in place to make those moves effectively. The Nuggets have too many duplicates and fringe rotation players that are doing no good riding pine and logging erratic minutes here and there. They need to dispose of those types of players, clear up some cap room and bring in one or two players who will challenge for starting positions. If they can do that, as well as hit on their lottery pick, they’ll be in good shape heading into the 2014-15 season.

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