Game Preview: Nuggets Ready for Big Challenge Against High-Scoring Houston

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

The Nuggets got back to work on Wednesday morning in Houston, down a significant player in injured forward Paul Millsap, but with no intention of throwing in the towel.

“I told our team this morning, it’s unfortunate anytime any player goes down,” coach Michael Malone said. “But that injury is not going to define us or our season. We are going to prepare, to work, to fight and to compete.”

Millsap is in Denver, sorting through medical options to treat a ligament injury in his left wrist.

“He’s back in Denver right now, met with our doctors yesterday,” Malone said. “And I think just being as thorough as possible. He’s going to talk to some other doctors, get some other opinions before we make a decision as to what the best course of action is regarding his left wrist.”

Meanwhile, the Nuggets have a tough task ahead of them – slowing down one of the NBA’s best players in James Harden, on one of the best teams in the league, the Houston Rockets. Piled on top of that is the challenge of dealing with one of the NBA’s best point guards, Chris Paul.

“Chris and James are still trying to figure it out, but at the end of the day they are both Hall of Famers, they are both great players, and we are going to have our hands full tonight,” Malone said.

What do the Nuggets need to do? Start with these things…

Run the Rockets off the 3-point line: Houston leads the league in 3-point attempts by a wide margin. The Rockets take 44.4 per game, 11 more than Brooklyn, which takes the second-most per game at 33. Houston makes 15.6, which also leads the NBA. So, 46.8 points per night come from the 3-point line. Every team comes into games against Houston wanting to run them off the 3-point line. Few can consistently do it all night long. But if the Nuggets can, it would pay huge dividends.

“In their wins, they make 17 threes,” Malone said. “In their losses, they make 12. So, we know that defending the 3-point line is huge.”

Keep Capela off the offensive glass: Many times, lost in the star power and eye-popping 3-point shooting is Houston’s starting center, Clint Capela. He is one of the most effective young bigs in the league in rolling to the rim and finishing, in blocking shots on defense, and in rebounding. Capela is seventh in the NBA in offensive rebounds (3.4), which gives the Rockets extra possessions or putbacks at the rim. Defending Houston is difficult enough. If the Nuggets aren’t able to secure the defensive rebound to finish off those defensive possessions, they could be in for a long night.

Defend without fouling: The Rockets get to the free throw line a lot. They are the No. 2 team in free throw makes (21.0), and the No. 4 team in attempts (25.6) and percentage (81.0). “They get to the foul line a ton,” Malone said. “James Harden leads the NBA in free throw attempts. So, can you defend him without fouling?”

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.