The Rockets burst out of the gates with 42 first-quarter points, a season-high. The other three quarters were a lot closer, but they picked up right where they left off last night and took care of business in Denver.
This game was by no means perfect for the Rockets. They allowed 23 offensive rebounds and 110 points, and Denver actually made one more shot than Houston (46-45). Houston won this game because they out-hustled the Nuggets; they wanted it more.
Houston’s hustle was once again led by Patrick Beverley. The box score never shows the whole story when it comes to Bev, but you can tell how much he means to this team. The Rockets are 7-2 since the Wolverine returned from his injury and his presence has been huge for this team. Tonight was no different. He kept plays alive, was a menace on the defensive end of the floor, and he continues to be the Rockets’ X-Factor.
Bev starting has moved Eric Gordon to the bench, but that certainly has not hindered his value. Gordon coming off the bench has sparked the other bench players, and we have seen a much improved bench with the likes of Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. Eighteen points from Gordon led the bench and Dekker put up a solid 17.
Dekker and Harrell both played extended minutes again, and it concerned me about how they would respond tonight, but with Mike D’Antoni going to them early and often, he showed trust in our two sophomores, and hopefully they will be able to deliver with injuries to Trevor Ariza and Nene.
The only negative of the game really came in the fourth quarter when Ariza left the game with a back injury. Hopefully he won’t be out for too long, if at all, but if he is, look for Dekker, Corey Brewer, and K.J. McDaniels to get extended minutes.
The Rockets have impressed me on this road trip and it looks like their ceiling is higher than we may have thought. They went 4-1 on one of their toughest road trips of the season. At the quarter mark of the season, we are 13-7 with nine of these wins coming on the road.
We have played the least amount of home games this season of any team in the NBA, and now the Rockets get to cook at home for the fans in Houston ten times in the month of December. The stock has risen, the bar has been raised, and the Houston Rockets are a scary good team that should be fun to watch for the last three quarters of the year.
Houston’s next game is a home contest against the Boston Celtics on Monday at 7 PM CT.