Rockets-Nuggets Preview

After his sensational effort helped the Houston Rockets avoid their longest losing streak of the season, James Harden will try to assist in turning around his team's fortune on the road.

As they open a four-game trip, Harden and the Rockets look to avoid their worst road slide in two years Saturday night against a Denver Nuggets team that hasn't won two straight at home in two months.

Houston (42-20) had been riding a five-game winning streak before falling 104-96 at Atlanta on Tuesday with Harden suspended and losing 102-100 at home to Memphis in his return Wednesday.

Harden made certain the Rockets wouldn't drop three in a row for the first time this season, finishing with 38 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in Friday's 103-93 home win over Detroit for his third triple-double.

''It was all about having fun, especially when your back is up against the wall after losing two tough games in a row,'' Harden said. ''You've got to get a win. So we go out there and have fun and execute and we play together.''

Houston moved into a virtual tie with Portland for the Western Conference's No. 3 seed as it begins a road swing that includes dates with the Trail Blazers, Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers after facing the Nuggets.

The Rockets head into the trip fourth with 105.2 points per game on the road, but they've averaged just 97.0 while hitting 28.5 percent from 3-point range in three straight defeats away from home.

Houston hasn't lost four straight road games since a six-game skid from Jan. 9-19, 2013. Behind Harden's 41 points and 10 assists, it snapped a four-game losing streak in Denver with a 115-111 overtime win Dec. 17.

Harden went 18 for 21 from the free-throw line in that contest, and the Rockets are 22-4 when he gets to the stripe at least 10 times. The All-Star also had a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 108-96 home win Dec. 13.

"It's going to be tough on our defense," Denver forward Darrell Arthur said. "Then we have the one-on-one task with James Harden. He's playing like an MVP candidate right now. We have to make him take tough shots. He's going to make tough shots, but it's better than giving him easy shots."

Denver (22-40) had allowed 90.0 points on 39.9 percent shooting in winning two straight after interim coach Melvin Hunt replaced Brian Shaw before letting San Antonio make 54.4 percent in Friday's 120-111 defeat.

Ty Lawson finished with 23 points and nine assists after going scoreless in Wednesday's 100-85 win at Minnesota. He's averaged 20.4 points in his last nine matchups with Houston and has totaled 28 assists in two this season.

Kenneth Faried has been rejuvenated under Hunt, averaging 17.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in three games since putting up 5.2 and 6.0 over his previous six. He appeared to be fine despite holding his right knee after a fall late in the fourth quarter Friday.

Denver snapped a 10-game losing streak at Pepsi Center with Tuesday's 106-95 win over Milwaukee.

Houston's Terrence Jones strained his right hip in the second quarter Friday but returned and finished with 17 points. He's averaged 20.2 on 64.6 percent shooting in his last five games, and missed both earlier games against Denver.

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