But their work with the Nuggets is not done.
In fact, even after tonight the Rockets have one more matchup with Denver. You can bet the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks are paying attention. And unlike other teams, the Rockets aren’t going to sit anyone for rest in these games.
If you’re a Nuggets fan, the story of the first game was Nikola Jokic’s foul trouble. If he plays more than 22 minutes Denver has a much better shot at winning. The refs were awful all game, and the biggest victim was Jokic. He’s primed for a big night. And there’s no chance that Jamal Murray and Will Barton combine to shoot 23%. Plus, the Nuggets were missing Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
The story of the game for a Rockets fan was the brilliance of James Harden. He carried a lethargic Rockets squad across the finish line. His triple-double was positively smaragdine. The Rockets won’t shoot as poorly from three (5-24) as they did Saturday night. Lou Williams improved as the game went on. And Patrick Beverley won’t go 1-7 again.
Winning both games in a home-and-home is really difficult. Teams get a feel for each other and the team that lost for the first game has a bit more urgency to win. It’s a similar feeling to the playoffs, though obviously these aren’t playoff games in terms of atmosphere.
I think the Rockets unlocked the best method for beating the Nuggets moving forward, which is to attack the paint and especially Jokic. The Nuggets aren’t great when it comes to wing defenders, which puts a lot of pressure on Jokic and Mason Plumlee. Denver is 29th in defensive efficiency, so grabbing some 3-and-D guys should be a priority for them if they think their current guys aren’t all suited to the task.
Just to reiterate, expect a totally different game tonight than the one from two nights ago. Home-and-home matchups are always funky.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT.
P.S. If the Rockets lose, Houston’s record with me in the building will drop to 0-2 and I promise I’ll stop going.