Den­ver buried by bar­rage of 3-point­ers

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christopher Dempsey

These used to be “sched­ule losses.”

The road-weary op­po­nent rolls into town in the wee hours of the morn­ing, bleary-eyed and want­ing rest. The Nuggets would com­pound their de­spair by run­ning them off the Pepsi Cen­ter court a few hours later. The sched­ule helped them win. They were good at that. That was then. Now, the Nuggets can’t even beat teams who should be ex­hausted. Four teams this sea­son have come into the Pepsi Cen­ter on the sec­ond of a back-to-back. Three of the four won, in­clud­ing the Rock­ets, who drubbed the Nuggets 128-110 Fri­day night.

The Rock­ets raised the de­gree of dif­fi­culty by go­ing dou­ble over­time the night be­fore in a vic­tory at Golden State, and didn’t get to their ho­tel in Den­ver un­til af­ter 5 a.m. Fri­day.

Why the Nuggets lost was as painful as the loss it­self.

The Nuggets knew a cou­ple of things about the Rock­ets com­ing into the game. First, and fore­most, this team loves — not likes — to shoot 3-point­ers. They jack them up at ev­ery turn, and with sum­mer ad­di­tions such as Ryan An­der­son and Eric Gor­don on the ros­ter, the Rock­ets heat up from the arc reg­u­larly, and when they do, prob­a­bly only Golden

FS­tate can match them shot for shot.

Hous­ton got to work fast on the 3-point front, nail­ing their first three in the first 2:22 of the game. At the end of the first, they’d knocked in seven of 14 from be­yond the arc. At half­time, Hous­ton had nine treys. At the end of the third, 14. The Rock­ets were mer­ci­less sharp­shoot­ers from deep, fin­ish­ing 17-of-37 from the 3-point line.

It was all the fire­power they needed. Of­fen­sively, the Nuggets were gen­er­ally fine. But de­fen­sively they were aw­ful. When the Nuggets had stretches of good 3-point de­fense, the Rock­ets sim­ply beat them to the bucket. That hor­ri­fy­ing cy­cle had no end. The Rock­ets built an early dou­ble-digit lead, which the Nuggets chopped to five in the sec­ond quar­ter. But that was as close as they’d get.

The Rock­ets put the game out of reach in the third quar­ter and pushed the lead to 20 in the fourth quar­ter. It was not the way the Nuggets wanted to head out, now on the road for six con­sec­u­tive games start­ing in Utah on Satur­day night.

Wil­son Chan­dler was the Nuggets’ most con­sis­tent offensive player and fin­ished with a game­high 24 points. But this game wasn’t about that end of the court. The Rock­ets put seven play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures, shot 50.6 per­cent from the field and scored the most points they had in any quar­ter this sea­son with 42 in the first. Con­versely, it was the most the Nuggets had al­lowed in any quar­ter this sea­son. The Rock­ets’ 73 half­time points were the most they’d scored in a first half on the road since April 8, 1990.

It was that kind of game.

Rock­ets guard Eric Gor­don (10) passes to for­ward Mon­trezl Har­rell as Den­ver’s Dar­rell Arthur and Em­manuel Mu­diay de­fend in the first half Fri­day night. David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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