Houston has been .500 three times this season.
When they were 0-0, the Nuggets beat them by 20 on opening night.
When they were 3-3, they beat the Clippers in Los Angeles.
When they were 4-4, they went to Denver and lost.
This will be their first game at .500 since.
Tonight is the last game between these two teams. Oddly enough, the Rockets swept Denver last season and are in danger of getting swept by them this year.
This game will clearly be a barometer for Houston, as playing in altitude always makes for a difficult game and Denver seems to constantly be standing in the way of Houston's quest to get back to their winning ways. Denver has been the wall, and Houston has to find a way to tear it down tonight in the Mile High City.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Jameer Nelson
The Rockets catch a break here with Emmanuel Mudiay being injured. Mudiay has 20 assists and 20 turnovers against Houston in the two matchups, but his size and quickness were too much for either of Houston's point guards. Jameer Nelson is only a slightly better sight for the Rockets, but he's shooting the ball really well recently and has played good basketball against the Rockets.
On the Rockets' side, this seems like a game built for Ty Lawson. I keep saying that every time he plays Denver (and he's dropped two eggs in those games), but Lawson's m.o. this season has generally been thus: if he is going against a player that can't embarrass him on defense, he usually plays well. When he gets embarrassed he usually holes up and shuts down.
The Nuggets only really have two point guards on the roster, so Lawson might be going against players that aren't ready for his quickness (other than guys who played against him in practice the last few years).
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Gary Harris
Gary Harris is shooting 43% from 3 this season.
That's scary, because...
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Danilo Gallinari
...Gallo is shooting 67% from 3 and 58% overall against the Rockets. Those are scary numbers.
What it really means is that Houston cannot leave either shooter open. And with Nelson also being a deep threat (not to mention Denver's bench), the Rockets will have to run their man off the line or stay tight to them when someone drives. That usually means more work for Dwight Howard. What else is new?
Gallo scares me in a way that few other players do. And if Mike Malone turns him into a stretch four for parts of this game, Houston is doomed. And I really don't think that's hyperbole.
Power Forward: Clint Capela vs. Kenneth Faried
This matchup is perfect for Capela. He doesn't have to follow Faried out to the perimeter and can fight for rebounds and help Dwight down low. The Rockets will need him tonight.
Faried is averaging a double-double (16/10) against Houston and has blocked 5 shots in the two meetings. He'll have at least two monster dunks in this game.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Joffrey Lauvergne
Maybe you haven't gotten the theme for today's preview, so I'll spell it out for you.
Denver has destroyed Houston in both games.
Houston has sucked in both games.
Lauvergne dropped 11 points and 7 rebounds against Houston on opening night. He went 4-5 from the field, including a 3-pointer. He's the stretch player that the Nuggets need with Faried being a poor jump shooter.
We talked already about how Dwight will have to stay home in the paint tonight. The coaching staff may put him on Faried and slide Capela to defend Lauvergne, but either way the Rockets need a huge game from Dwight on the defensive end if they're going to have a shot here tonight.
Rockets: Jason Terry, Ty Lawson, Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas
Nuggets: Randy Foye, Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Mike Miller
Prediction: Denver finishes the sweep and drop Houston below .500 once again.
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