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Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets game preview

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The Rockets head to the Mile High City to take on the dangerous Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets' last game was against these same Nuggets, but a few things have changed since then. Denver had another game in between their two against Houston (a 99-91 loss to the Spurs), but will be getting Danilo Gallinari back as well as Kenneth Faried, who injured his ankle against Houston and missed the game against San Antonio. Because I don't know how much they'll play, I've put both of them in the bench section. Faried will probably start, but I'm playing it safe and going with their lineup from their previous game.

So while Houston impressed in their win over the Nuggets after a rough start, this Nuggets team will be a different beast playing in their home building.

The Rockets will play on ESPN tonight as the second game of a double-header. Brooklyn-Toronto will precede this game.

Tip off is at 9:30 pm CST on ESPN

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Ty Lawson

The good news at this position is that Isaiah Canaan should get his first work in a few weeks tonight after being out with a sprained ankle. The bad news is that Propeller Plane won't be at the game as he and his wife are expecting a child. It's not bad news in the real sense, but bad news in terms of availability. Of course that pales in comparison to the importance of a child, but the Rockets will still miss him.

Wow, that whole paragraph made me sound super selfish.

Anyway, Canaan being back gives the Rockets their full guard rotation after tonight. Houston already sent Clint Capela back down to RGV, but I'm interested to see if they send Nick Johnson back down. My guess is they keep him up for a couple of games as insurance in case anyone reinjures something then they send him back down. Either way, he's absolutely proven that he can give the Rockets spot minutes in important moments.

Advantage: Nuggets

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Arron Afflalo

Western Conference Player of the Week James Harden is a really long title, but I'm sure he's got his sights set on something higher. At least I hope he does.

Afflalo dropped 31 points on 60% shooting against the Spurs, so he's probably got some confidence going tonight.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Wilson Chandler

If Chandler goes to the bench at any point of this game, how many people will wonder if he's been traded? That's usually a thought process reserved for the full deadline, but suddenly everyone is looking to make moves. Mostly, the top 9 teams in the West know who they are. Phoenix needs that last piece to help push them across the line. The other 8 teams are in an arms race against each other. And the other teams in the West are starting to resign themselves to not making the postseason. So they'll look to deal to lock up a first rounder in the future.

Chandler's been rumored to be on a lot of teams' wish lists, and if he is available I expect Denver is trying to get a first rounder for him. They may not even be willing to part with him, so who knows? I guess the speculation is what excites most people when it comes to trade rumors, but honestly I've grown so tired of it during the last few years. I'm sure Morey is always looking to make moves, and I'm sure I'll never know the deal until Woj reports it. I've been burned too many times to try to guess what the Boy Genius is going to do.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. J.J. Hickson

Like I said, Faried probably plays here, so I'm going with even here. If Terrence Jones were starting here, the advantage would go to the Nuggets because of the Jones Corollary. However, I think that D-Mo cancels out Faried's athletic ability with his own post game.

Advantage: Even

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Timofey Mozgov

It feels nice to give Houston the advantage again here. Howard's offensive contributions were sorely missed (the offensive rebounds, putback dunks, and alley-oop outlets for guards), but his defense deters opponents in a way that will never show up on a stat sheet. He also got the Nuggets into early foul trouble and allowed Houston to get into the bonus early.

I go to Houston Baptist basketball games whenever I come home, and they play "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" when the team comes out after halftime. It seems like that applies to the Rockets as more and more players keep returning from injury. We're almost back to #FullSquad.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Nick Johnson, Isaiah Canaan, Joey Dorsey, Tarik Black

Nuggets: Darrell Arthur, Alonzo Gee, Jusuf Nurkic, Nate Robinson, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried

Advantage: Nuggets

Prediction: Rockets win a close one, 102-100.

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