Nuggets Hope Small Adjustments Make Big Difference In Round Two Against Rockets

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

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HOUSTON – The Nuggets’ game at Houston on Monday night (6 p.m., ALT, 950 AM) will boil down to their ability to replicate what went well on Saturday in the loss to the Rockets, and adjust the things that didn’t.

They were generally pleased with how things went from a game-plan standpoint. Defensively, they held the NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting team to just 5-of-24 from the arc, which were season lows for the Rockets in attempts, makes and percentage.

“They’re a great team,” Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson said. “They put you in so many positions and situations when you’re on defense. We’ve just got to stick to the game plan. I felt we did a good job, but when it came down to it they actually made more plays than us --- 50-50 balls, they got a couple of offensive rebounds.”

Offensively, the Nuggets were able to get many of the shots they wanted – now they need to make them. There were 11 missed free throws and 18 missed layups in Saturday’s game. The Nuggets shot just 42 percent from the field overall and 32 percent from the 3-point line.

“We got every shot we wanted, we just missed,” Nelson said. “We’ll take those same shots and those same guys will make them.”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone wants more movement on offense this time around.

“We got into trouble offensively at times,” Malone said. “Too many guys were trying to post up and that killed our spacing. Our big guys have to do a better job of screening and rolling. We were screening and popping. When you don’t roll, you don’t force them in the paint to tag, which doesn’t open up the skip pass for the wide open shot.”

Nelson agreed.

“We just got to stay the course and continue to be who we are,” he said. “And that’s a team that moves on offense, cuts, plays together.”

Rockets’ star James Harden had a triple-double of 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on Saturday night. He scored 18 points in the third quarter alone, so keeping him away from big scoring quarters is a focus. The Rockets also got big games from two of their interior players, Clint Capela and Nene. They accounted for eight of the Rockets’ 10 offensive rebounds in the game, which were turned into 15 second-chance points.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets also want to steer clear of fouling. Nikola Jokic played just 22 minutes in Saturday’s game because he was saddled with foul trouble all game long. The Nuggets as a team put the Rockets on the free throw line for 35 shots. Harden took 17 free throws himself.

The Nuggets will once again be without three veteran players. Forward Darrell Arthur did not make the trip as he continues to work through knee soreness. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are both on the trip but will not play. They are hoping to be ready for Wednesday’s game against Cleveland at the Pepsi Center.

That means the Nuggets will go into Monday night’s game with the same players who were available to them on Saturday night. But this time, they’re hoping to come out with a much-needed road victory as they try and hold on to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

“Defensively we were good the other night overall,” Malone said. “Now, it’s all of the other little things – have discipline, stop fouling jump shooters, finish around the basket, make our free throws, make more shots. If we do that, hopefully we’ll give ourselves a chance tonight

.”

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