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Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets game preview

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Denver Nuggets came within a game of making the playoffs and facing the Houston Rockets in the first round. So far this season, those roles seem reversed.

Denver is 9-4 on the young season with wins over Boston and Golden State. Unfortunately, they’ve dropped three straight heading into tonight, with the losses coming against the Grizzlies, Nets, and Bucks by a combined 11 points.

The Nuggets have a great young backcourt in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The two are explosive and can shoot or get to the basket when necessary. Murray dropped 48 on the Celtics but has struggled since, averaging 15 points per game on 35% shooting. Harris isn’t shooting as well this season as he has in the past, but he’ll probably figure everything out in time for the Rockets. The Nuggets also feature Paul Millsap and Juan Hernangomez at the forward spots. Both can spread the floor and allow driving lanes for their guards.

Or, they can help create space for the centerpiece of the Nuggets offense, Nikola Jokic. The Serbian center is averaging 18/10/7. He’s an incredibly skilled passer and scorer out of the post and is a surefire All-Star if he continues to play at this level. As in, so surefire that it won’t be a surprise at all. Houston’s only hope to contain him will be to attack him on defense and have him chase Clint Capela on rim runs. In the altitude of Denver, that second one doesn’t seem likely. If Isaiah Hartenstein has to spend more than five minutes defending Jokic, this game will be over.

The Rockets swept the Nuggets last season. That will not happen again for the foreseeable future.

Tip-off is at 8pm CT