The Houston Rockets' shaky start is quite the contrast from the red-hot fashion in which they opened 2014-15.
Both ends of the floor look like major concerns for Houston heading into Friday night's meeting with the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
Houston won 19 of its first 24 games for the league's third-best start last season. The Rockets (4-4) have struggled to find consistency this time around, though, having their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday in a 106-98 home loss to previously winless Brooklyn.
"I'm worried about our team right now," coach Kevin McHale said. "We haven't caught a rhythm yet. I've said it all since we've been together. We haven't been able to put together long runs of just good, solid basketball."
James Harden scored 23 after finishing with 37 or more in three of his previous four, but even with those dominant performances, the three wins came by a combined 15 points.
Houston is attempting an NBA-high 32.1 3-pointers per game, but was 8 of 34 against the Nets and is shooting 28.4 percent from deep on the season. The Rockets' league-leading 32.7 attempts per game in 2014-15 were much more palatable given their 34.8 3-point percentage.
The defensive play may be even worse, as Houston is surrendering 108.3 points per game. Brooklyn had averaged 88.8 in its previous six contests.
"We have not been very good defensively. We've got guys not doing assignments," McHale said. "A lot of it's effort. Some of it's communication. ... We're not playing very good."
Houston may be able to capitalize on a vulnerable 3-point defense for Denver (4-4) that has allowed its last six opponents to shoot 41.1 percent with 11.2 made 3s per game. The Nuggets won 103-102 at home against Milwaukee on Wednesday despite the Bucks going 10 for 22.
The Rockets were cold from deep in the season's first meeting, though, going 8 for 35 in a 105-85 opening home loss Oct. 28. They shot 34.5 percent from the field with Harden and Ty Lawson combining to go 9 for 31.
Harden, who scored 22, is still averaging 33.0 points in his last five meetings. He's shooting 24.7 percent from long distance this season but is up to 40.0 over his last three.
Kenneth Faried finished a putback of Danilo Gallinari's missed shot with five seconds left against Milwaukee. Gallinari scored 25 and the victory was a boost for a Nuggets team that learned earlier in the day that Wilson Chandler would undergo season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his right hip.
Chandler has averaged 13.3 points for Denver since being acquired from New York in 2011.
"Thank goodness we had just enough in us to come out of here with the win," coach Michael Malone said.
Nuggets point guard Jameer Nelson is questionable after missing the last two games with a lower-back injury.
Gallinari scored a team-high 23 in the first meeting as Denver shot 50.6 percent and was 13 of 27 from 3-point range. The Nuggets blocked 10 shots while winning for only the second time in eight meetings.