The Denver Nuggets will look to bounce back from a bad loss when they host the struggling Houston Rockets on Friday night.
The Nuggets are sixth in the Western Conference, but are coming off a 119-107 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. The injury-plagued Thunder ended Denver’s six-game winning streak despite having only nine players available for the game.
Denver should be ready for Houston, which has just seven wins in 33 road games, and not just because of the loss to the Thunder. The Rockets nearly stole a game from the Nuggets in Denver on Nov. 6 as they led by five in the final minutes. It took Nikola Jokic’s block from Jae’Sean Tate’s layup at the buzzer to seal a 95-94 win.
The Nuggets have a chance to sweep the three-game season series with the Rockets and shake off the frustration of the loss two nights earlier.
The positive point of the loss against Oklahoma City was the play of the reserves. They struggled for most of the season, but this time they dominated the starters, except for Jokic. The bench outscored the starters 58-49 and was 11 for 21 from 3-point range; the starters missed their first 24 3-point attempts before making their last.
Bones Hyland and Bryn Forbes, who was acquired in January, combined to hit 10 of 12 3-pointers.
“I think we all have some of those nights,” Forbes said. “Some nights the bench isn’t as good as the starting unit. Not at all, we have very talented players in both groups, and I obviously believe in those guys, just like they believe in us.
Coach Michael Malone said a “horrible” practice on Tuesday was rescheduled for Wednesday.
“We usually don’t train, and we have been training,” Forbes said. “I think that was maybe what was difficult about it.”
Houston has lost 11 straight, including a 132-127 overtime loss to the Northwest Division-leading Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
The Rockets could miss several players on Friday. Dennis Schroder sat out Wednesday with a sprained right ankle sustained the previous night, Eric Gordon did not play against the Jazz due to groin pain and Tate missed the second half due to left ankle pain.
Despite those injuries, Houston led Utah in overtime.
“This team has a lot of fighting and a lot of character and a lot of grit, and we’re learning,” coach Stephen Silas said. “It’s unfortunate that we lost the match, but that’s really the only unfortunate part.”
The Rockets have a knack for playing well against good teams. In addition to pushing Utah into overtime and nearly beating the Nuggets in November, they lost by three on the road to the Phoenix Suns, the best team in the NBA to date, and by a point against the Los Angeles Clippers on their 11-game slide.
Houston’s last win came on Feb. 2, 115-104 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Rockets are 1-15 in their last 16 games and have won seven since Dec. 8, when they ended a seven-game winning streak after a 15-game losing streak.
–Field level media
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