This was a matchup of the two Western Conference division leaders that don’t go by the name “Warriors.” That was until the Spurs won again last night and nudged ahead of Houston in the Southwest.
The Rockets haven’t played since Tuesday, when they lost as road favorites in New Orleans. It wasn’t a terribly surprising defeat because James Harden looked like a man running on fumes and Jrue Holiday can lock it down. Plus, the Pelicans played with some ‘tude with their best player MIA.
In fact, Denver went in the very next night and nearly lost too, except it had just a little too much Big Honey. Nikola Jokic did it all without Jamal Murray in the lineup and logged his eighth triple-double of the season. He was honored yesterday with his first NBA All-Star selection.
There were moments in that game when Jokic looked exhausted, though. He’s played in 49 of 50 games this season and his offensive responsibilities are huge without Murray in the lineup. Tonight, he’ll have to keep up with Kenneth Faried.
Chris Paul played 51 minutes in two games since returning but is listed questionable tonight. It feels like there would be more out there if he wasn’t going to play in the team’s first game in three days but it’s something to watch. I for one, imagine he’s feeling good after taking a couple games to get his wind back, followed by back-to-back days off.
As long as Murray remains out, Denver is a fade for me. That means tonight and perhaps again tomorrow, when it plays in Minnesota on a brutal back-to-back. Much as the home/away splits tell me not to (Houston: 10–13 road, Denver: 22–4 home), I feel good backing the rejuvenated Rockets tonight.
Play: Houston +4.5
Chris Paul • Denver Nuggets • Houston Rockets • James Harden • Jokic