DENVER -- The Nuggets are looking to add to their season-high four-game winning streak against the Houston Rockets, who lost a shootout with the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night. Denver is looking to extend their two-and-a-half game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the West and continue their winning ways at home.
Denver is looking to extend their two-and-a-half game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and continue their winning ways at home, while Houston, who with a couple more wins could lock themselves into the three seed, has won three of their last four.
Regular season game No. 69 | Denver Nuggets (33-35) vs Houston Rockets (47-22)
It's not breaking news to say that the most important aspect of trying to defeat the Rockets is limiting them from the three point line. They have a coach in Mike D'Antoni who wants his team to average 50 three-point shots a game and a general manager in Daryl Morey who wants to his team to take as few mid-range shots as possible. Houston's built their roster entirely around that philosophy.
"For Mike D'Antoni and his system it's all we want are threes and layups and they bought into that and their roster is built for that," Michael Malone said. "That is the other side of it. Having a philosophy is one thing but not having a roster that can go out there and execute that philosophy at a high level. Well, when you have (Eric) Gordon, you have (Trevor) Ariza, you have (Patrick) Beverley, you have (James) Harden, you have (Ryan) Anderson, you have Lou Williams now. All of their guys are capable of stepping out and shooting threes. It's what he believes in and to their credit, they built their roster around that philosophy and it has gone very well for them this year."
If Denver has any hope of securing a win over Houston, they need to play with energy and passion on the defensive end of the floor. If they do not close out hard and play with a sense of urgency, the Nuggets could get obliterated from beyond the arc. Denver will need to play up and into their man on defense or risk a loss.
"They're averaging 47 threes taken since the All-Star break. Think about that number," Malone said. "That number is absurd. They average 40 per game on the season but 47 since the All-Star break."
Look for Denver to hedge out and play their bigs up the court as they have as of late to help remedy the amount of three pointers by Houston. The Nuggets don't need to completely shut down the Rockets from deep but if they don't work hard to contest every shot, Denver could be in for a long night.
With both of Dallas and Minnesota losing and Portland not playing Friday, Denver's lead for the eighth seed continues to grow. The Nuggets now lead the Trail Blazers by two-and-a-half games while the Mavericks are four games back. Minnesota has nearly fallen out of the playoff race entirely. They sit five full games behind Denver.
The Trail Blazers are in Atlanta and take on the Hawks Saturday, who are currently fighting for the fourth seed in the East, while Denver takes on the Rockets, who are on the second night of a back-to-back. Neither the Timberwolves or Mavericks play Saturday so Denver has a great opportunity to tighten their grip on the eighth seed with a win against Houston.
Where things get interesting is at the power forward slot. Mason Plumlee has done solid job starting alongside Nikola Jokic but Kenneth Faried returned against the Los Angeles Lakers and played well. Faried has been fantastic alongside Jokic this season but who ultimately starts alongside Jokic will be a good look into the thought process of the Nuggets and how they envision using Plumlee going forward.
Darrell Arthur (left knee soreness) is not expected to play versus Houston. It will be the third consecutive game Arthur has missed.