Houston Rockets vs Denver Nuggets: Lineups, preview & prediction 2/25/18
Both these sides are on extended winning streaks and are capable of putting up huge scores. Who will come out on top when Denver host Houston?
The Nuggets are on a four-game winning streak after they crept over the line against San Antonio on Friday. The 122-119 win came on the back of a third consecutive Jokic triple-double – he put up 28 points, 11 boards and 11 assists.
The win moved Denver (33-26) to seventh place in the Western Conference standings. They are, however, just 2.5 games behind third, and 1.5 games from ninth.
The need to keep winning for the Nuggets is clear, but they will have their work cut out stopping a red-hot Rockets team. Houston have won 11 games in a row, have stormed to the top of the standings, and are coming off a 120-102 victory against Minnesota.
Clint Capela was excellent in the victory, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, while Harden contributed his customary 31 points and nine assists.
Three keys to the game
Who can score faster? – Though Houston’s defense is well above league average, their success is predicated on an elite offense. Denver are also much better at that end of the floor, and their offensive rating of 108.4 is the sixth best in the league. This will be a high-scoring affair, and Denver will need to be at their best to keep up with the Rockets.
Stopping the Joker – Everyone knows Jokic is a unique talent, but in the past few games he has taken things to a new level. He has triple-doubles in all of Denver’s past three matchups, and in this time averages an incredible 27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, shoots 64.4% from the floor and 61.5% from beyond the arc.
How long is Denver’s memory? – Houston have been dominant over the Nuggets in the past couple of seasons. They swept the season series 4-0 in 2016/17 and are on the way to doing the same this season. They are 2-0 in games against Denver this season and have won these games by 30 and 26 points.
Matchup to watch
Nikola Jokic vs Clint Capela – The respective centers in this game couldn’t have more diverse game styles. Jokic is, as mentioned, a unique player, capable of scoring both inside and on the perimeter, and possessing arguably the best passing game of any big in the league.
In contrast, Capela cannot and does not shoot, relying on the pick-and-roll cohesion he has developed with his two point guards to get his buckets. He averages 14.6 points on 65.9% shooting this season to go with 11.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Jokic’s 17.2 points and 10.6 rebounds are similar numbers, but he also adds 6.0 assists a night.
He is a difficult defensive assignment for bigs who are not accustomed to guarding player’s with such a diverse range of offensive skills, so Capela will need to be on full alert at that end of the floor.
Denver Nuggets predicted starting lineup
PG – Jamal Murray | SG – Gary Harris | SF – Will Barton | PF – Wilson Chandler | C – Nikola Jokic
Houston Rockets predicted starting lineup
PG – Chris Paul | SG – James Harden | SF – Trevor Ariza | PF – PJ Tucker | C – Clint Capela
When these sides met earlier in February, Capela had what was probably the best game of his career. He scored 23 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action, sitting out the final quarter after Houston had secured the victory. Paul and Harden have also caused problems for Denver in these games, dishing out a combined 39 assists in the two games in an average of just 27 minutes playing time.
Denver have only been given a 4.5 point head start in this game, and while they have been playing good basketball, Houston will be able to cover this line. The Rockets are proving impossible to stop, and given the game will likely be a high scoring one, 4.5 points isn’t much. Back Houston at the line.
This will be a game worth watching as one of the best teams in the league goes up against the young and talented Nuggets. Jokic’s great form will continue, and he will dish out over eight assists and scoring 25 points, but it won’t be enough. Paul and Harden will continue to wreak havoc as the best backcourt in the league, and Capela will capitalize on Jokic’s sometimes suspect interior defense to score plenty of points at the rim. Houston will run out winners in a high-scoring, fast-paced matchup, winning 126-116.
The game will be broadcast locally on Altitude and ATTSN-SW. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.