NBA Basketball
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Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Denver 28 15 28 34 105
Houston 35 25 32 29 121
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CT23:00 , January 22, 2020
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Rockets grasping for straws, and boards, ahead of Nuggets

According to STATS
According to STATS

Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets

  1. The Nuggets and Rockets have split their first two meetings of the season, with each winning once on their own court. The Rockets have won seven straight games over the Nuggets in Houston -- their longest home winning streak in the series.
  2. Denver, which arrives in Houston riding a season-high four-game road winning streak, is 13-7 on the road -- its best 20-game road start in franchise history. Since New Year's Eve, the Nuggets' average of 55.1 points in the paint on the road trail only the Lakers' average of 56.5. Prior to December 31, the Nuggets ranked 25th in average paints in the paint on the road at 43.7.
  3. The Nuggets won at Minnesota, 107-100, on Monday after trailing 29-26 after one quarter. Denver leads the league with 16 victories after trailing after the first quarter. It had 15 such wins all of last season.
  4. Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 24.0 points against Houston this season, is averaging 21.9 points since the start of December after averaging 15.6 points through November. That increase of 6.3 ppg is second in the NBA behind Joe Ingles' 6.7 ppg improvement (min. 70% of games played in each split).
  5. The Rockets suffered a season-worst fourth straight loss with Monday's 112-107 defeat to the Thunder. They were 9-of-45 from three-point range, ending the longest streak in NBA history of consecutive games to begin a season with 10 or more made three-pointers at 41 games.
  6. James Harden was 1-of-17 from three-point range -- his 14th game of the season with 10+ missed three-pointers. Harden has 57 games in his career with 10 or more missed three-pointers -- 31 more than the next-closest player on this list in Step Curry.

Before the Houston Rockets, set to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, coughed up a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead on Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston coach Mike D'Antoni specifically addressed one of the pressing issues negatively affecting his team during this stretch of frustration and relative futility.

Defensively, the Rockets were a sieve in allowing 41 fourth-quarter points en route to their 112-107 loss, their fourth consecutive setback and fifth in six games. But the Thunder were aided in part by their 13-8 advantage on the glass in the final period, continuing for Houston a recent trend of surrendering crucial rebounds that in turn have brought its season to a halt.

The Rockets rank 16th overall in rebounding rate this season. However, Houston is just 22nd this month at 49.1 percent, a total that correlates to its inability to muster a fight when moments are dire and games in the balance.

"It's been bad," D'Antoni said. "That's a problem we've been addressing, we've been talking about. We've got to get that better. You can't be (ranked low) in something that important."

It is tempting to analyze the Rockets roster, recognize how frequently D'Antoni relies upon smaller lineups geared toward shooting and declare an easy solution. But what has been obvious to anyone watching Houston of late is that what ails it goes far beyond the lack of rangy, athletic types.

It is easier to point out the Rockets' shortcomings defensively because insincere effort is most obvious on that end of the court. Boxing out with fervor and determination is more difficult to spot, and if the Rockets are going to reverse their current slide, they will need more of both on the glass.

"It's awareness, it's mental energy," D'Antoni said. "And sometimes during the year, you do have dog days and sometimes it happens, and sometimes you get complacent because you're winning. You shoot the ball well and you win and you're good. So it's a habit that we've got to get back to and draw attention to and do a better job.

"These guys are trying to win every night. I'm not ever questioning that. It's just questioning that sometimes your focus has to be in other areas and for whatever reason ... you get into a bad habit and we've got to break that."

Interestingly, the Nuggets view rebounding as a clear indication of their game-by-game investment. The Nuggets were plus-11 on the glass in their 107-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. It should come as little surprise that the Nuggets are 7-3 this month and pace the league in rebounding rate in January, snagging 52.2 percent of all available rebounds.

Denver has depth and shooting in abundance, and it has developed an adeptness at wielding both to its favor. But when the Nuggets rebound intently, their optimal selves are revealed.

"It tells me whether or not if we're in the fight," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Are we going to be physical? Are we going to work? Are we going to own our spots to gang rebound and get out and run?"

Michael Porter Jr. continues to have the hot hand for Denver, scoring in double digits in each of the past five games in averaging 16 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in that stretch.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 21, 2020

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