The shorthanded Houston Rockets finally have their campaign underway albeit with a close loss and their next opponents in the Denver Nuggets haven't got going either. Last year's conference finalists stand at 0-2 to start the 2020-21 NBA season.
Both these franchises have dominated the upper echelons of the West but the Houston Rockets' future is in doubt with James Harden still looking for a trade. Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, have lost their defensive edge due to a slew of roster changes and need to shore up that end quickly.
Houston Rockets vs Denver Nuggets: Key matchups to look out for
Despite the stars they'll be missing due to COVID-19 protocols, the Houston Rockets can still put up a fight, as showcased by them against Portland. The Denver Nuggets also have their big two and other talented youngsters raring to go. As such, let us look at the three key matchups that could decide the game.
#1 James Harden vs Jamal Murray
Despite his notoriety in the offseason, James Harden is all about taking care of business when he steps on the court. He had 44 points and 17 assists while playing extended minutes against the Blazers even without ample conditioning. He'll have to play his heart out again if the Houston Rockets are to stand a chance.
To counter him, the Denver Nuggets have Jamal Murray who hasn't looked as great to start the season but we all know from his bubble run just how lethal he can be. In his last outing, he caught fire in the fourth quarter to account for 13 quick points.
Neither player is a great defender but their volume scoring is good enough to turn the tide of the game in a few minutes.
#2 PJ Tucker vs Paul Millsap
He may not stuff the stat-sheet but PJ Tucker plays a critical role for the Houston Rockets each night. He'll battle for every loose ball, go hard at the boards, and make life difficult for the opposition inside the paint. Tucker's also an amazing three-point shooter from the corners.
The Denver Nuggets made it a priority to re-sign Paul Millsap this offseason. The veteran helps out the team to get moving when the offense isn't flowing and makes good reads to support the interior defense. He's a good floor-spacer too. Expect a good one-on-one battle between these two.
#3 Christian Wood vs Nikola Jokic
Christian Wood was a sought-after free agent this offseason and he showcased some of his potential in the offseason. He's continued his ascendancy from last year and managed a whopping 31 points and 13 rebounds in his competitive debut for the Houston Rockets.
However, he's up against arguably the best center in the league in Nikola Jokic. Jokic is currently leading the Denver Nuggets in all three major categories, averaging 26.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists through two games. Wood will be hoping to use his physicality to restrict the Serbian.
Published 28 Dec 2020, 10:30 IST