Denver is fresh off an impressive win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, while Houston will look to regain its footing, proving their overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night was merely a fluke.
The Nuggets are hoping to build some momentum off their first victory, yet will have to go through James Harden and a rowdy Rockets squad to do so. Houston, on the other hand, is hoping to distinguish itself further with a win over Denver, as every team in their Southwest Division remains over .500.
Can the Jeremy Lin and Harden-led Rockets rattle off their third victory in four tries or the Nuggets set to assert their dominance as a Western Conference powerhouse?
Let's find out.
Time: Wednesday, November 7th, 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: League Pass
Records: Denver Nuggets (1-3), Houston Rockets (2-1)
Betting Line: Rockets -2½
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Nuggets: Julyan Stone (hip), out.
Rockets: Greg Smith (foot), probable; Royce White (migraines), questionable.
Key Storyline: Measuring How the Rockets Will Fair in the Western Conference
Houston made relatively quick work of its first two opponents, the Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, but suffered an overtime meltdown against its first conference foe.
Is that cause for concern? Possibly, because the West is brimming with talent, and for the Rockets to prove they are a postseason-caliber team, they're going to have to start defeating teams with some serious firepower.
And the Nuggets—despite an underwhelming start—have some serious firepower. They're also a hungry team that is looking to put the first three games of the season even further behind them with a second-straight victory.
Denver was also projected to be one of the conference's top teams as well, so Houston's performance against a pundit-proclaimed powerhouse will say a lot about the team's potential.
Not to mention serving as a significant indicator as to whether or not this unity is strong enough to reach the playoffs.
Key Matchup: Andre Iguodala, SG, Nuggets vs. James Harden, SG, Rockets
This one is going to be fun.
Harden is currently on a scoring rampage, averaging 35.3 points per contest to lead the NBA on 52.9 percent shooting from the field. He has been dishing the ball out at a high rate as well and appeared simply unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor.
His perpetual accolades have also transformed the Rockets as a whole into an offensive juggernaut. Lin is thriving and the team is currently ranked 10th in points scored per bout at just under 100.
Is anyone going to be able to put a stop to this, to provide a rude awakening in Houston at the expense of "Hardensanity?"
Iguodala certainly could.
He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game, and can disrupt the flow of an offense by swarming the ball or attacking the passing lanes off it. His shot-blocking prowess is also at an all-time high this season.
Though Iguodala is a defensive stalwart who will cause problems for Harden, he is no one-trick pony. He's been scoring at a decent rate (14.8 points per game) and dishing out four assists as well.
Simply put, Iguodala is Harden's first truly troubling two-way assignment of the season, and how either party handles the other will speak volumes in the concluding box score.
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Nuggets
Gallinari is off to a tumultuous start to the season. His rebounding rate has improved and he's scoring nearly 15 points a night, but he's shooting just 26.2 percent from the field.
Denver brought in—and subsequently retained—the Italian forward with the hopes of him actualizing his star potential. But he has yet realize it, let alone make it a reality.
Against a loaded backcourt like Houston's—where the Nuggets do not have a clear-cut edge—Denver will need all the advantages it can get in the frontcourt. He'll most likely be defended by Chandler Parsons, who possesses great size, but not the defensive abilities to stalemate a scorer like Gallo can be.
Should Gallinari improve his efficiency from the field by taking advantage of his favorable matchup, the Rockets will be in for a long night.
Omer Asik, C, Rockets
I hate to say it, but Houston needs Asik to do more than rebound here.
The oft-uncoordinated big man will be spending ample time in the post against ferocious competitors like Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. While his 14.3 boards per game are impressive, his 35 percent shooting from the field is not.
Harden and Lin are facing off against the toughest backcourt they've met thus far and will rely heavily on their supporting cast to make some big plays on the offensive end.
Asik clearly won't be a feature scored, but his ability to take advantage of the open looks he'll receive at the rim off pick-and-rolls is of the utmost importance to a Houston team looking to push past a supposedly superior opponent.
Wilson Chandler, SF, Nuggets
Houston's starting five boasts an array of perimeter threats; its bench, however, does not.
This means Chandler needs to have a big night for Denver.
Though he has struggled to find his touch offensively, the world knows what the athletically-inclined forward is capable of. He is a sound jump-shooter who is also a threat to attack the rim, and when he gets going, he's tough to stop.
The battle of the starting fives is anything but won by either team, but the Nuggets have the clear advantage off the bench—especially on the outside.
And for Denver to emerge victorious, Chandler needs to show us why.
Marcus Morris, PF, Rockets
Yes, Houston's bench is thin in general, but it has a role-playing gem in Morris thus far.
The power forward is averaging 12 points and five rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. He's shooting an impressive 46.9 percent from the field, helping him to a PER of 16.3 early on.
If the Rockets wish to hold their homecourt against the underdog, albeit prolific Nuggets, Morris will need to step up and play big minutes while continuing to post a starting-caliber stat line.
Prediction: Nuggets 103, Rockets 99
Though the Nuggets have yet to find a semblance of satisfaction in their star-studded roster, they're set to pull off the upset here.
Players like Gallinari, Chandler and Ty Lawson are just explosive nights waiting to happen and will likely carve up an impressive, yet thin, Rockets perimeter attack.
Denver should have no problem putting boards on the board here regardless, though, with experienced performers like Iguodala and Andre Miller ready and waiting to manhandle the inexperienced Rockets defense.
That being said, Houston will have no trouble holding its own. Harden and Lin will continue to break down the defense with the utmost of ease, and the bearded wonder is likely headed for another 30-plus point performance.
But it won't be enough.
The Rockets' lack of depth was exposed against the Blazers and will be exploited even further tonight against an even deeper Nuggets team.
So Houston will keep it close, but superior depth will prevail in the end, ultimately providing a young Rockets entity with another invaluable learning experience.
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