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Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets game preview

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston’s magic number remains at one after the Jazz knocked off the Portland Trail Blazers last night.

That win had extra repercussions, because the Blazers are now tied in the loss column with the Denver Nuggets in the race for the 8 seed in the Western Conference.

And what do you know, the Nuggets are in town tonight to take on the Rockets. A week ago this game looked like it might be another easily winnable game as Denver was fading and Portland was surging. Surely the Nuggets would see the writing on the wall and give up the chase.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum playoffs. Portland dropped two straight games and Denver won two after an injury to Jusuf Nurkic. Even though the Blazers have the tiebreaker, it’s a brand new race. Denver’s closing schedule, which looked like hell last week, has opened up. They’re getting Houston (basically locked into their seed), Dallas (trying to lose to improve their lottery odds), New Orleans (ditto), and OKC (basically locked into the 6 seed) twice.

Portland closes with four games all at home, and Minnesota, New Orleans, and even San Antonio might roll over for them. But Utah arrives in their building on April 8 in a game Utah will almost certainly need in their push to grab homecourt in the first roun.

Obviously, that aspect of tonight’s game is more fascinating to me than the actual aspect of Houston playing a basketball game.

Again, the Rockets have nine total chances (five games for themselves and four for Utah) to clinch the 3 seed. A win tonight would get it, but even if that didn’t happen they’ll have chances. More importantly, Houston needs James Harden to get over his viral infection and for his wrist to heal. Sam Dekker will be out for a month, and Trevor Ariza could be back tonight after missing a rare game due to a death in the family.

Upcoming games of note (all times Central):


Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies: 7pm

Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers: 9:30pm on ESPN.



Tip-off is at 7pm CT.