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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Total comments: 4
  • Buckko says 3 months ago I knew the viper gang had potential, you could be looking at your new bench next year. Those guys can shoot lights out, something our "veterans" can't do.
  • Bigtkirk says 3 months ago

    I agree that McHale played it right limiting the minutes of the primary players. Even with that, the Rockets just might have pulled it out except for Foye playing out of his mind. I hope McHale continues the rotation pattern for most of the remainder of the regular season.

  • SadLakerFan says 3 months ago You have it right in the first sentence. This was a schedule loss. McHale played it right, resting the starters. Given the back to back, time zones and altitude, I would have been tempted to keep Harden out completely. The Pacers have put themselves at risk of an early round exit by exhausting their starters.
  • Red94 says 3 months ago New post: Denver Nuggets 123, Houston Rockets 116: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    By: Paul McGuire

    If there was such a thing as a schedule loss, tonight was it.  The Rockets were playing in Denver, having played another late game the night before in Los Angeles, which thus meant that they lost an hour through time zones.  If that was not bad enough, Denver, a team which has plenty of energetic bigs who love to run like Kenneth Faried and Jan Vesely, was a terrible fit for a Houston team with such a thin frontcourt.  Combine that with Randy Foye going off against Houston like a mixture of Jason Terry and Jordan, and hey, there’s nothing that can be done, right?

    If viewed solely from the perspective of wins and losses, perhaps.  But tonight was a test about whether Houston could have just a little fortitude and come one step closer to securing that home court advantage they have fought all season for.  But at the very end, it was not the Houston players who will be playing in the playoffs who showed toughness, but rather the D-League players fighting for their next contract who nearly pulled off a miraculous victory.

    From the very beginning, the Rockets looked completely uninterested in this game.  They started 1-10 from the field, fell behind as much as 30-11, and were overall completely lethargic.  While they failed to hit a single three-pointer on offense, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov frequently just ran down the court, got the ball, and dunked.  Irritated by Houston’s poor effort, McHale went to his bench early, but in fact that seemed to make problems worse: substituting Motiejunas for Asik, for example, did not help stop Denver’s transition offense, and it only worsened Houston’s massive struggles on the glass.

    For the rest of the game, it was more of the same.  Houston would have a spurt which made it seem like they could get back in this game, but then Denver would respond with a run of their own.  In the 2nd quarter, it was Lin leading the charge, as he scored all 18 of his points in the first half.  In the 3rd quarter, it was better three-point shooting, before it collapsed due to Randy Foye being absolutely on fire, scoring 22 points in the quarter on his way to 30 overall.  Yes, Houston’s shaky perimeter defense did not exactly help, but once Foye started to get hot, he just began to hit everything, not to mention his 15 assists to just 1 turnover.  Even in the 4th quarter, when McHale decided to pull the plug early out of schedule concerns, the bench group led by Troy Daniels cut a 22 point deficit to 4 with less than 2 minutes left, but Foye hit a tough layup and Houston could not secure a rebound.  Same old, same old.

    • What is more important than tonight’s game is a look at James Harden’s health.  In the third quarter, Harden had a rough tumble with Aaron Brooks, and was slow to get up holding his right leg.  Harden did check back in a while later, his right knee wrapped in a bright red brace, but he remained passive for the rest of the game.  While it clearly is not too severe, Harden’s rough style of play means that you always have to wonder about injuries with him, despite his rugged build.
    • Houston has not held a team to less than 105 points since March 27, the last game when Howard and Beverley.  To say that Houston’s perimeter defense is all Beverley is unreasonable.  Probably the main reason for Houston’s weak defense is that just like last season, the defense lacks a suitable big man anchor when Asik rests; in fact, it is weaker as while Greg Smith was no defense stalwart, having him at all was better than nothing.  Defense, as Charlotte this season and Chicago in general have shown, is at times about effort and discipline, and a Houston team with the 4th seed all but wrapped is clearly just waiting for the regular season to end.
    • I say “all but wrapped up”, but it’s still possible for the Blazers to reach the 4th seed, especially after their 100-99 win over Sacramento tonight.  The magic number of Rockets wins and Blazers losses needed remains 2.  It would take a dismal collapse for Houston to give it up even after tonight.  But as long as it can still happen, the Rockets need to stop sleepwalking as they did tonight.