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Rockets lose to Nuggets 87-81, eliminated from Summer League tournament

Houston rallied from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit, but fell short in the final minutes.

Rockets vs. Suns at Las Vegas Summer League, July 10, 2017 Ethan Rothstein

The Houston Rockets were eliminated from the Las Vegas Summer League tournament after an 87-81 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

Once and potentially future Rocket Troy Williams and Rio Grande Valley Viper Chris Johnson led red and yellow scorers with 20 points each. Houston trailed nearly the entire contest, including a slow first half with limited contributions from their NBA talents, including Chinanu Onuaku.

Johnson, who has had five separate stints with NBA teams, was the only player keeping the Rockets afloat for most of a harrowing third quarter. In the fourth, Houston winnowed an 11-point deficit down to a single point before turnovers, fouls and missed shots resulted in the six-point loss.

Troy Williams slumbered for stretches of the first and third quarter, but found his touch in the second and fourth to total 20 points. He looks destined to be the Rocket who takes the minutes of traded forward Sam Dekker.

Isaiah Taylor continued his campaign with 12 points, but amassed it on a 2-13 shooting performance. He played without fear, persistent in his drives to the basket, but unable to get his shots to fall after creating contact against larger defenders.

You might think it impossible for a 7-foot-2-inch human to disappear, but Zhou Qi managed it in 24 minutes. He had just 2 points on 2 shots and looked increasingly lost. In the game’s final quarter, the Rockets put Zhou on the bench as they campaigned for the win with Taylor, Johnson, Tim Quarterman, Williams and Onuaku playing nearly the entire frame.

Onuaku didn’t look like an NBA talent in a noticeably off night. The crowd groaned when he missed two of his trademark underhanded free throws and balls spent much of the evening bouncing off his hands.

The Nuggets standout was Torrey Craig, who scored 26 points, taking full advantage of Houston’s defensive lapses.

Houston will play a consolation game on Friday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. The loss was revenge for the Nuggets, who were defeated by the Rockets on the opening day of Summer League.