In the first quarter, the Rockets looked out of sorts on offense. Outside of a 14-point outpour from Christian Wood, who went 3-4 from deep, and seven points from James Harden, Houston struggled to get a basket.
Despite holding on strong for the entire first quarter, Houston went completely scoreless in the final 3:49 of quarter without the combination of Harden and Wood on the floor, allowing the Nuggets to go on a 14-0 run. Houston went down 36-26 at the end of 12.
The struggles didn’t end immediately for the Rockets in the second quarter. Houston didn’t get their first bucket until 9:46 into the quarter, finally ending a 20-0 run by the Nuggets with a Jae’Sean Tate three.
Houston would go down as much as 16 in the quarter, but an onslaught from Harden would bring them within eight. Despite an incredible 21-point quarter from Harden, Houston’s deficit increase to 15 yet again until Harden eventually willed Houston to within only 10 points at the half. Wood (20 points, three rebounds) and Harden (28 points, six assists) combined for 48 points of the Rockets points as they went into halftime down 70-60.
Halftime would be the most competitive that this game would get.
The Nuggets, like they did all game, increased their lead early in the third quarter, only for the Rockets to cut it down to seven, but then it would be all Denver from there. With Houston unable to score or get a stop, they’d go into the fourth quarter trailing 106-83.
Harden checked out for the night after three quarters with 34 points, eight assists, and six rebounds.
A fully loaded Nuggets (which sounds delicious by the way) team was just too much for the Rockets, and that should have been expected. Nikola Jokic stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, 18 assists, and 12 rebounds. Jamal Murray had 21 points, 4-6 shooting from deep. Paul Millsap scored 19, going 7-8 from the field, 3-4 from three.
Christian Wood finished out the game with 23 points after going 9-of-20 from the field and an immaculate 4-5 from three to go along with three rebounds and two blocks. David Nwaba is looking like he will be a key role player for Houston after finishing the night with 14 points, five rebounds, two steals, and some very athletic finishes at the rim as he works his way back from an achilles injury. Jae’Sean Tate might have had only five points, but he had seven rebounds, and also I just needed an excuse to show this poster.
The great news for Harden, Wood, and the rest of the Rockets is that help is on the way. As long as everything goes according to plan, the rest of Houston’s lineup will be there on Thursday for the home-opener as the Rockets host the Sacramento Kings at the Toyota Center on New Year’s Eve.