Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 26:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a play on the court during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Toyota Center on January 26, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets square off in a Western Conference battle between two high-scoring, fast-paced offenses.

Both teams are eyeing the playoffs, but as the Nuggets hit a solid stride and look like a top-four team in the West, the Rockets are doing their best to hold onto one of the last few playoff spots as they alternate winning streaks with losing streaks.

Denver, on the other hand, has been as hot a team as any since the middle of December, winning 17 of their past 23 games.

Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: NBA League Pass

Records: Houston Rockets (25-22), Denver Nuggets (28-18)

Gambling Line: N/A

Injury Report: JaVale McGee, Questionable (Sore left leg)


Key Storyline: Points, Points, Points

The Nuggets come into their game against the Rockets averaging 103.5 points per game—a clip good enough for fourth in the NBA—while the Rockets average 104.9 points, making them the second-highest scoring team in the NBA.

The Rockets drop in points through the penetration of James Harden, along with a well-balanced three-point attack, as nearly every player they put on the floor can hit jumpers.

Denver's attack is completely different, running their game via the fast break as much as possible, and relying on penetration, mid-range jumpers and a solid post game. Their offense is clicking so well right now that they've averaged over 112 points per game in their past four wins.

Houston and Denver are respectively the fastest and second fastest-paced teams in the NBA, so expect a ton of shots.


Key Matchup: Andre Iguodala vs. James Harden

We've got ourselves a cerebral defender taking on a dynamic scorer in a matchup that has been quite interesting so far this season.

The first time the two teams met each other this season, Iggy completely shut down Harden, at least as well as anybody could shut him down.

Harden put up just 15 points on 33 percent shooting as the Rockets fell to the Nuggets 93-87 back in November.

The second time around, Harden made out a bit better, but the result was the same. He put up 23 points on 47 percent shooting, but the Rockets lost this time around 105-95.

A third matchup could see Harden starting to figure out how to deal with the tight perimeter defense of Iggy, or he could end up getting shut down like he did the first time around.


X-Factors: Wilson Chandler vs. Carlos Delfino

Wilson Chandler is returning from a sprained groin that he suffered against the Sacramento Kings and kept him out of the Denver win over the Indiana Pacers.

Before his injury, Chandler had dropped in double-figure scoring in four of his previous five games, including a 20-point performance against the Rockets.

He's definitely got the ability to be the player he was before he spent most of last season playing in China, he's just been a bit streaky trying to get back into NBA mode.

Meanwhile, Carlos Delfino is streaky for a completely different reason. That's just the way he's played ever since he's come into the league.

Of course, this season has easily been his best in terms of efficiency. If you give him an open three-pointer, odds are that he's going to be able to knock it down.

January has been his month, shooting 46 percent from the three-point line and averaging 13 points per game.

Delfino enters the game against Denver with seven-straight games with at least 13 points, and nine of his last 10.



Both teams come into this game riding hot streaks, the Nuggets with four wins in a row and 10 in their last 12, and the Rockets bringing home wins in four of their last five games.

On top of that, they've both been scoring out of their minds in the past few games, with each team registering at least one game of 125 points in their last two.

It would make sense to see a shoot-a-thon between these two, and that's probably just what we're going to get.

Denver is just riding higher lately, and they've been doing it for an extended period of time, so it's difficult to pick against them in a game like this.

Denver 117, Houston 104