Taking the first three games of the season series against the Denver Nuggets would have been miraculous, but something had to give. The Houston Rockets finally lost to the defending champs this evening with a 134-124 final. The point differential isn’t as indicative of how bad it looked for the Rockets, especially early on.
Aided by the return of Jamal Murray and the absences of Fred VanVleet and Jae’Sean Tate, Denver got off to a hot start and led by 15 at the end of the first quarter. Denver’s 41 point outburst went against just about everything we’ve seen from a Rockets’ defense that has been pretty swell this season.
Houston got burned by Michael Porter Jr. on multiple occasions in the first and throughout the game as he played like a man on fire. It wasn’t until the end of the first quarter when Houston hit a couple of threes, helping cut the lead down a little bit.
Alperen Sengun put up a respectable 20 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but it ultimately paled in comparison to Nikola Jokic’s 30-10-15 line. It’s a wonder how that guy ever misses a shot. Plus, if he’s not destroying you around the basket, he’s dicing you up with his passing.
At a certain point you have to acknowledge that the better team won, but this certainly wasn’t a performance, especially on the defensive end, that Rockets’ fans have become accustomed to this season.
This was clearly evident during the spurts of the game when the Rockets would make a run, but would give it right back on the other end. Tonight felt very one step forward and two steps back in that sense.
One of those spurts came in the second quarter and it featured Jeff Green — 12 points in his return to Denver — and Reggie Bullock (two threes) chipping away at Denver’s lead. It was starting to look like this might become an actual game, but the Nuggets somehow managed to take an even larger lead into halftime.
The most exciting part of the game — for Houston — came during the third quarter when Jalen Green poured in 19 points as part of his 26 point evening. He also dished out 9 assists in place of the absent FVV. I was encouraged by the resolve he showed and his willingness to drive and dish to open shooters. He’s one of the streakiest guys out there. I just hope he becomes more assertive earlier in games before they get out of hand.
With the result of this game never being in too much of doubt, Ime Udoka emptied the bench, allowing Cam Whitmore (8 points), among others, to get some playing time.
This was always going to be a tough game to win considering the opponent, missing key contributors, and also coming off of the second night of a back-to-back roadtrip. The Rockets, who are .500 once more, will be tasked with getting their first road win on Saturday versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Like the first two games versus the Nuggets, the Rockets took the first two against the Lakers at home. Let’s hope that losing the third game on the road doesn’t become a trend.