There were some precarious moments down the stretch of the fourth quarter, as the Houston Rockets, at one point up 17 in the second half, watched their lead dwindle down to just 4 points with under three minutes remaining. But James Harden hit some free throws and a soul-stealing step-back jumper, while Jamal Murray dribbled the ball off of his own knee and out of bounds, and then Houston hit their free throws in the closing minute to hold off the Denver Nuggets 119-114.
Harden scored 41 points on 11-20 from the field, including 6-10 from deep, and he also grabbed 8 boards to go along with 7 assists to lead Houston to the victory.
The Rockets lead almost all night, and by double-digit points for most of it, but Denver fought tooth-and-nail until the end behind 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists from Nikola Jokic, who took it to Clint Capela throughout the evening.
Despite Jokic’s dominance, the Rockets shot over 50 percent from the field on the night and went 15-35 from beyond the arc, and The Beard got a lot of help across the board to highlight Houston’s current depth.
They also received 23 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals from Chris Paul, while Trevor Ariza finished with 14 points and 6 boards while shooting 3-4 from three. P.J. Tucker pitched in 9 points, and he continues to shoot well, going 3-5 from beyond the arc, and we’ll have more on Tucker’s current shooting success later this week here at TDS.
The Rockets, who were playing without Eric Gordon and Nene, also got 8 from Ryan Anderson, including two key buckets in the fourth, one of which was a nifty spin move that had the Houston bench cracking up, and they also got 7 apiece from Joe Johnson and Luc Mbah a Moute.
Brandan Wright saw his first action as a Rocket, and he pitched in 4 points, 2 rebounds, and a big block, and looks like he should fit right in when Houston needs an extra big. He played 15 minutes filling in for Clint Capela, who had just 6 points and 7 rebounds and also had some major butterfingers all night. Capela just couldn’t hold on to the rock, committing 6 turnovers and at one point drawing the ire of head coach Mike D’Antoni.
As for the Nuggets, in addition to Jokic, they got 25 points from Will Barton, 19 from Jamal Murray, 12 from Trey Lyles, and 10 from Wilson Chandler.
The Houston victory gives them a 3-0 sweep of the season series with Denver and was their 12th consecutive victory overall. The victory also snapped the Nuggets’ four-game win streak.
Houston now moves to 46-13 and are a half game up on the Golden State Warriors in the West. They’ll be back in action tomorrow night on a back-to-back, as they travel to Utah for another tough game against the Jazz, where the Rockets will be looking for win number 13 in a row.