Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets game preview

USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets return home after a 1-1 road trip to take on the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets swept the Rockets in their season series last year.

First and foremost: much thanks to Abel Prado for covering for me and my lazy behind. And congrats on the incoming little one!

The Houston Rockets have not had more than 1 day off yet this season and have already had 3 back-to-backs. That's pretty weird, but not awful. That should mean that at some point the schedule will lighten up a bit.

Last season the Nuggets won all 4 meetings between the two teams, but things are quite different this time around. The Nuggets fired George Karl and Andre Iguodala walked in free agency and joined that team in the Bay Area that I don't like. Danilo Gallinari is still out and the JaVale McGee Era was put on hold when McGee went down with a stress fracture.

The Rockets are dealing with their own stuff. Namely, Omer Asik wanting out of town. The Turkish center asked for a trade for the second time since July. While I think he does get dealt eventually, three issues could complicate matters.

1. Daryl Morey isn't going to settle for a bad deal. According to Woj, he wants a frontline player that can step in immediately or a first-round pick in the 2014 draft.

2. That being said, teams aren't going to trade flamethrowing power forwards or first round picks in the most anticipated draft since LeBron's all willy-nilly.

3. Omer Asik's contract is not owner friendly. It's team friendly, but not owner friendly. What do I mean? Well, as we all (might) remember from the "Poison Pill Contracts of 2012," Asik's contract is for 3 years, $25 million. That's ~$8.3 million cap hit each year. HOWEVER, Asik's actual payout works like this: first year, $5 million; second year, $5 million; third year, $15 million. Now subtract Asik's first year which is gone, and a team is bringing on Asik for 2 years, $20 million. That means the team owner of the receiving team is going to have to be willing to pay more to a player than what he's "worth" according to his salary. It's a small issue but shouldn't be discounted. NBA owners can be notoriously stingy.

The good news is that Greg Smith is only expected to be out for 10 days. But tonight the Rockets can't focus on those things and need to worry about the Nuggets.

For your enjoyment, here are highlights from a 1997 meeting between the two teams, with appearances by Matt Maloney and Sam Mack, and others!

January 30, 1997 Nuggets@Rockets (Hakeem Olajuwon 48 points) (via papaluca123)

Tip off is at 7pm CST

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Ty Lawson

Everyone knows what Ty Lawson does: kills your team, plays okay against everyone else (J.J. Redick Syndrome). But seriously the guy is pretty good.

So we've reached the cause-effect argument with Lin off the bench. Should he be starting since he's playing so well, or is he playing so well because he's coming off the bench? I think McHale likes the flexibility of him off the bench and that's what we'll see for the rest of the season. Remember, it's not who starts but who finished. And Lin is definitely finishing right now. And yes, I just talked about Lin instead of Patrick Beverley. Maybe I'm a closet LOF.

Advantage: Nuggets

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Randy Foye

In my mind, I see Randy Foye missing nothing when he's playing against the Rockets and only shooting something like 30% when it's against other teams. That's obviously not true, and is clearly a bias I have towards my team. Foye is shooting 38% from three early in the season so he's one to look out for.

The extra day off seemed to do Harden some good. After watching the Rockets blow a 3-point lead in regulation and overtime against Philly, he came back with a vengeance against the Knicks. The biggest difference to me was that he attacked the basket more than we've seen all year. Too often Harden settles for jump shots. The problem is that he makes enough of them to continue doing it. He needs to be in attack mode, and his numerous trips to the line against the Knicks underlie a new mindset for the Bearded One. Part of the reason that Harden struggled so much in these games last year was the presence of Iguodala. Tonight Harden won't face anyone that good at perimeter defense.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Jordan Hamilton

Hamilton starts but since the Nuggets have such a deep bench he usually doesn't play much and they use the SF spot as a fulcrum to go to smaller or bigger lineups depending on the situation.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Kenneth Faried

While Lawson vs. the Rockets PG is probably the real X-factor matchup tonight, don't sleep on this one. Faried is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than Jones. On the other hand, Jones can stretch the floor more and keep Faried out of the paint if he hits a few triples early.

This is definitely a matchup to watch throughout the game.

Advantage: Nuggets

Center: Dwight Howard vs. J.J. Hickson

Remember when we all knew some team would pay a lot for J.J. Hickson in the offseason? I never thought it would be the Nuggets, who already have plenty of athleticism. Plus, 3 years $16 million isn't really overpaying for a player that can play multiple positions well. He hasn't started off great and I expect to see Mozgov playing here a lot since he matches up better with Dwight's size and he played very well against the Lakers the other night.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin

Nuggets: Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson, Andre Miller, Darrell Arthur, Evan Fournier

Advantage: Nuggets

Prediction: Rockets finally break the streak, win 108-95.

Nuggets vs Rockets coverage

Denver Stiffs

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