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Game Preview: Surging Nuggets Looking to Solve Rockets Riddle

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

In large measure, today’s Nuggets game against the Houston Rockets is an experiment.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They’re the best team in the NBA, they’ve won (11) straight, we’re 10-3 in the last 13. There should be a lot of points on the scoreboard, a very exciting game. Hopefully we can kind of keep pace with them.”

Defensively, the Nuggets have to find schemes that work in slowing the Rockets down. In the first two meetings of this series this season, Houston has won the games by an average of 28 points.

“We went into the first game, we got away from our normal coverages. We tried to play way down the floor, play the pick-and-rolls two-on-two, stay home on shooters – didn’t work. Second game, we tried to get back to doing what we do, be up, be more aggressive, be up on the roll. It worked better for a short period of time, and then (Rockets center Clint) Capela got behind us and killed us on the glass. So, I think a great team like that, you have to give them different looks. It can’t be a steady diet of one thing.”

This, however, is the first time the Nuggets get the Rockets in Denver. At 24-7 at the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets are one of the best home teams in the NBA. The Rockets, meanwhile, are 21-7 on the road, one of the best road records in the league.

“This is our last meeting against them, we may try some different things,” Malone said. “Because we have nothing to lose because what we’ve tried so far has not worked.”

Still, the Nuggets found a silver lining in their Feb. 9 130-104 loss at Houston. Offensively, they generated the shots they wanted, those shots just didn’t fall. The Nuggets were 3-for-28 from the 3-point line that night, a wildly uncharacteristic cold shooting night. The Nuggets enter today’s game with a streak of at least 10 made threes in 13 of their last 14 games.

“I feel like we don’t play with our swagger against them for some reason, we’re not ourselves,” guard Will Barton said. “We’ve got to be ourselves. I’m going to make sure we come out with that mentality, win, lose or draw.”

By and large the Nuggets have grown to have that edge, that swagger, each night.

“From training camp in September, to now, part of our maturation has been we’ve developed a belief, an edge, and we don’t fold,” Malone said. “I’m not saying we’re there yet, like we’ve got everything figured out. But if you look at some of the games we’ve had, some of the ways that we’ve been able to finish and close games with the young guys that we have, that is an edge.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter

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