• Brian L. Barefield

James Harden scores 38 as the Rockets defeat the Nuggets 112-85

After a lackluster performance in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, the Rockets used a 40 -19 second quarter run to defeat the Denver Nuggets 112-85. James Harden had a game high 38 points in which 32 of those came in three quarters of action and he only played four minutes in the fourth quarter. Harden wasn’t the only Rocket who played with intensity tonight as backup guard Austin Rivers provided a much-needed spark with 15 points off the bench. It was his highest point total since scoring 17 against the Miami Heat back in February.

“I got good looks. We played with this amazing tempo tonight, amazing tempo. So, we were able to get good looks and knock them down,” said Rivers on his performance tonight.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni was very impressed by the defensive effort his team displayed against the Nuggets. By holding Denver to 85 points, the Rockets have now held opponents below 110 points in 13 of the past 14 games.

“This is by far our best effort defensively. It’s been coming on and guys got after it. We do that then whoever it is, it is,” D’Antoni said in his post-game press conference about the focus his team has had defensively the last couple of games.

One player the Rockets were happy to see bounce back was Eric Gordon. He went scoreless for the first time since January 30, 2018 in Milwaukee, but scored 18 points and shot 4-of-6 from 3-point range after going 0-for 5 against the Bucks.

“I was playing injured really bad in that Milwaukee game (Gordon left the game on Sunday in New Orleans after he rolled his ankle), but it is good to get back on track and beat a good team like Denver,” said Gordon.

Houston won the season series 3-1 and have defeated the Nuggets 10 of the past 11 meetings. After winning six in a row, Denver has lost two of its past three games and is now a full game behind the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference. One issue that has plagued the Nuggets has been rebounds. Houston outrebounded Denver 46-38 led by the 15 from the Rockets Clint Capela.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone knows his team is running on fumes as Denver played their fifth game in eight days.

“Fatigue is a factor for all NBA teams right now, and we have to find ways to fight through it. That bench unit – when they come in, they have to provide something and have to help us out, and tonight they really struggled,” Malone reiterated to the pool of reporters after the game.

The Rockets will be back in action on Saturday against the Sacramento Kings.

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