Denver Nuggets @ Houston Rockets on 11/16/13

After a brief, two game road trip on the east coast, the Rockets return home to face a Western Conference team that had their number last season. The Denver Nuggets pay a visit to Houston on Saturday, and the question is who will hit the last second three pointer at the end of the game: Ty Lawson or Andre Miller? The plan is not to let the game turn into yet another one-possession nail-biter, but a definite pattern has emerged in the Rockets’ season so far. Will the Nuggets present an opportunity to return to preseason form? And if they do… will the Rockets finally size upon some opportunity?

The Rockets may be dealing with some early season hiccups, but the Nuggets are experiencing a much more serious malady. With the loss of Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors and the loss of both head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri, the heart of the franchise has been ripped out. The team still has a pile of talent, but injuries, growing pains, lack of true stars and the necessary adjustment period resulted in a shaky 3-4 start that sees them face the streaking Timberwolves the day before coming to Houston. If there’s a time for Houston to exorcise some demons, it’s now.

The Nuggets are missing Danilo Gallinari to an ACL injury suffered in April, and now are looking down the barrel of an injury to JaVale McGee, who suffered a tibia fracture and will miss several weeks. The timing could not have been worse as the Nuggets must face the Wolves, Rockets and Thunder in a row and stand to lose all three. The grim reality for Houston is that the Rockets might present the only opportunity for a win, given their stale performance as of late.

The news about Ömer Aşık isn’t new, but it’s still grim. With the so-called twin towers experiment seemingly proving unsuccessful, Aşık (through his agent) reiterated his trade demand. The reports vary on whether Houston plans to accede to that demand, but it seems likely that general manager Daryl Morey could find plenty of suitors for the defensive big man’s skills. Ömer’s lack of playing time in the last two games (4 minutes total) is reportedly due to his response when coach Kevin McHale asked if he was feeling okay, but it’s hard not to put two and two together. Aşık has been sullen and unmotivated so far, and a player of his caliber is useless if he can’t be asked to perform. It’s yet to be seen how long this situation will continue, but the Nuggets are sure to try to pounce on it with both feet, especially given Greg Smith’s LCL sprain.

Jeremy Lin, however, has looked amazing, and his duel with Ty Lawson should be the high point of the game. James Harden’s feet still seem to be bothering him, and he’s taking a while each game to get back to speed. J.J. Hickson and Dwight Howard might prove to be a very depressing show for Houston if Dwight’s matchup with Andrea Bargnani is any indication. Hickson is an able if not great post player, and Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw happily starts him at center. The Nuggets a reeling team, and Houston has to finally take advantage of that. They’ve missed opportunity after opportunity to polish off weaker foes. That might eventually stop. It might even be Saturday.

Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets tip off at 7:00 pm central time in the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

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