Rockets-Nuggets Preview


The Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets are both struggling offensively after putting together impressive runs last month.

The Nuggets will try to avoid losing a season-high third straight when they host the Rockets on Monday night.

After winning six in a row and eight of nine, Denver has dropped four of five, including the last two of a back-to-back-to-back stretch. The Nuggets (15-9) averaged 110.4 points during their excellent nine-game stretch, but have been held under 100 points in three of the five games since.

They are looking to bounce back after a 117-97 loss to Portland on Saturday. Denver trailed by as many as 27 before cutting the lead to three in the third, but Portland went on a 14-2 run to put the game away.

"We just need to start being more physical," said Corey Brewer, who scored 14 points off the bench. "The last couple games we haven't had the physicality we need."

Danilo Gallinari scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half. He's averaging 14.4 points the last five games after averaging 25.5 during the previous four.

Nene has also seen a drop-off over the last several games as he struggles to maintain consistency. He had four points on 1-of-5 shooting Saturday and has scored 24 points in the last three. During Denver's run last month, he averaged 16.4 points while playing in five of those six wins.

After a tough stretch, the Nuggets play their next three at home. They are 7-4 at the Pepsi Center, losing the last two by four points each.

Houston (13-11) is dealing with similar offensive struggles. After averaging 103.3 points during a seven-game winning streak last month, the Rockets have dropped four of seven while getting held to fewer than 100 in three straight.

Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry each scored 24 points Saturday, but Houston fell 100-91 at Minnesota. The Rockets trailed 55-42 at the end of the first half after allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 57.5 percent. They were outrebounded 48-37.

Leading scorer Kevin Martin, who averages 19.9 points, was held to two points on 1-of-10 shooting.

"We just started out with no defensive intensity," coach Kevin McHale told the Rockets' official website. "We can't be a pretty team, we can't be a team that just goes out there and plays easy; we've got to be a team that's going to go out there and fight like we did when we got mad."

Scola and Minnesota's Kevin Love were involved in an altercation when Love stepped on Scola's face and chest after knocking him to the ground on a drive. Love said it was unintentional and a Wolves spokesman said the big man apologized to Scola after.

The incident did spark a late rally by the Rockets. They want to take that intensity into Denver while trying to improve on a 3-8 road record.

"Everybody wants to win, everybody wants to play hard - that's not the question," Scola said. "We just need to find a way to do it because when you do the right thing, everything rolls better and you can see how everything goes better and better and better."

Houston and Denver split their four meetings last season, with the Rockets winning the last two.