The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Nuggets 105-95
There are nights in the NBA where you just get completely outplayed and for Houston, this was one of them. The Nuggets came into the game with a simple, but effective gameplan: double team James Harden and let his teammates beat you. On most nights, they will, but tonight, the Rockets shot a putrid 31.6% (12-38) from three-point range. Houston also turned the ball over 20 times - really poor for a team that was averaging just 15.2 turnovers per game (12th).
The Rockets had opportunities midway through and late in this game to capitalize on Denver mistakes, but they were flummoxed by the swarming defensive approach, missed shots, and turned the ball over. The Nuggets are one of the few teams that can run with Houston and they took advantage of that, scoring 20 fast break points.
The Rockets may have had a fighting chance in this one had Danuel House not gotten hurt on an unfortunate play in which Nikola Jokic got called for a moving screen foul. House had to leave the game with shoulder soreness and did not return for the rest of the night. Without House and Gordon, the Rockets were lacking their two best shooters and had poor spacing against a Nuggets team that was trapping James Harden all night.
This doesn't excuse how badly the Rockets played. If Houston had limited their turnovers, played better defense, and hit just a fraction of the shots they missed, they could have won this game. They didn't and that's why they took home just their second regular season loss in three years against a Denver Nuggets squad that looks ready to contend in the Western Conference.
Star of the game: It's hard to pick a star for Houston after a loss like this, but I suppose the guy who played the least bad would probably be Clint Capela. Capela had 12 points, 21 rebounds, and a steal on 6 of 9 shooting from the field. Capela had to defend a handful in Nikola Jokic (27 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists), but managed to be a +0 in a game in which the Rockets lost by 10.
Honorable mention: The award for "second least bad" would have to go to James Harden who logged 27 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 63.1% true shooting. It's also worth noting that Harden wasn't particularly good defensively, turned the ball over 8 times, and was a -17. Harden did the best he could on Denver's impressive trapping, but his performance was nonetheless a mixed bag at best.
Key moment: Denver really pulled away from Houston in the third quarter, where they outscored the Rockets 28 to 22 and hit 41.7% (5 of 12) of their three-pointers while allowing the Rockets to shoot a measly 33.3% (3 of 9).
Up next: The Rockets travel to Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m. on Friday to take on the newly healthy duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.