NBA

Nuggets-Rockets Preview

James Harden isn't worried about having an off night due to his confidence in the Houston Rockets' supporting cast, a group that still doesn't include Dwight Howard.

Most everyone has contributed when they've faced the Denver Nuggets.

Houston looks to sweep the four-game season series Thursday night when Denver makes its third stop on a season-high five-game trip.

Harden's average of 26.7 points ranks second in the league to former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, but he's scored fewer than 19 in three of his last four contests after finishing with 17 in Tuesday's 107-94 win over Orlando.

The Rockets (45-22) came in with a 6-9 record when Harden scored fewer than 20, but Donatas Motiejunas (23), Trevor Ariza (17), Josh Smith (17), Corey Brewer (13) and Patrick Beverley (12) also scored in double figures to offset Harden's 4-of-14 shooting.

"That's the beauty of this team," Harden said. "You got five or six guys in double figures. That means the ball is moving around and that means guys are getting good shots. No matter if I struggle or not, we still win and that's a great thing."

Houston improved to 15-8 since Howard went down with a right knee injury. He began practicing last week and said he's close to returning, but he nor the club have committed to an exact date.

Howard combined for 50 points and 29 rebounds while playing the first two meetings with Denver (26-42) before sitting out Houston's 114-100 win March 7, when Harden had another solid effort against the Nuggets.

Harden's triple-double and Motiejunas' then-career-high 25 points helped Houston earn a 108-96 win Dec. 13 before Harden finished with 41 points and 10 assists in a 115-111 overtime victory Dec. 17.

Beverley had 12 points and 12 assists in the second matchup, and Brewer finished with 24 points off the bench in the most recent meeting.

Wilson Chandler scored 23 and 26 points in Denver's last two against the Rockets, but he and Randy Foye were the only regular starters to play Monday as the Nuggets had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 92-81 loss at Memphis.

Interim coach Melvin Hunt rested Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari as Foye scored 16 points and Chandler added 13. Jameer Nelson started in place of Lawson and scored a season-high 24.

Nelson is averaging 18.0 points over his last four after scoring 7.1 in his first 22 since being acquired from Boston on Jan. 14.

"I can't say enough about Jameer Nelson," said Hunt, who is 6-3 since taking over for the fired Brian Shaw. "Every time we needed a basket, we needed a play, whether it was offense or defense, he gave everything."

Nelson may be sent back into a reserve role behind Lawson for this contest, but Hunt said after Wednesday's practice that he doesn't plan to sit anyone against the Rockets.

Houston coach Kevin McHale may go back to his previous starting lineup as well. Terrence Jones started the previous 11 games before McHale inserted Joey Dorsey in his place Tuesday. McHale wouldn't elaborate on why Jones didn't start, but Jones said it was because of a personal issue.

Promoted Stories
Comments

More NBA