When the Houston Rockets have everything going on the offensive end, few teams can match them bucket for bucket. The Denver Nuggets, boasting six different double-figures scorers, are one of those teams.
Two of the league's hottest clubs in recent days, the Rockets and Nuggets tip off from the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night in what should be a fast-paced, high-flying game loaded with short possessions, quick triggers and a whole lot of running.
Currently the two fastest-playing teams in the NBA in terms of possessions per game, Houston and Denver typically try to beat opponents with a similar formula: force turnovers on the defensive end, run in transition and wear opponents down with a varied, unrelenting offensive attack.
For both teams, it's a style that's been working of late. The Nuggets have won four straight games and 10 of their past 12, averaging 109 points per game during the stretch. Houston battled through a seven-game losing streak earlier this month, but the Rockets have won four of their past five, including a 125-80 blowout of the Utah Jazz on Monday.
When these two teams met exactly a week ago in Houston, the Nuggets rode a dominant third quarter effort to a 105-95 victory on the road. Denver impressed on the defensive end in that game, holding the Rockets to 45 percent shooting from the field while forcing 22 turnovers.
As The Dream Shake notes, the Nuggets have been able to beat the Rockets at their own game: Denver is the only team in the NBA with more baskets around the rim this season than Houston. Both teams will surely be focused on trying to prevent that kind of penetration all night long.
Wednesday's game begins at 9 p.m. ET, broadcast locally.
Hardened Defense in the Post
If the Nuggets want to limit what Houston does offensively, getting to Rockets shooting guard James Harden would be a good place to start. One of the best players in the league at attacking the rim and drawing fouls, forcing Harden to take perimeter shots more frequently can keep him (and the Rockets in general) out of rhythm.
Compare Harden's per game numbers during the team's recent stretch to those during the losing streak.
Past five games: 27.2 points, 4.8 three-point attempts, 12 free throw attempts
Losing streak: 22.2 points, 7.4 three-point attempts, 7.7 free throw attempts
When Harden is able to get past his defender and attack the basket, he's a significantly more effective scorer than when he's forced to take long jump shots. Add to the equation that Harden is struggling badly on three-point shots (27 percent this month) while proving to be an elite free throw shooter, and the importance is magnified.