Harden, Rockets hold off Nuggets, clinch 3rd seed
Harden, Rockets hold off Nuggets, clinch 3rd seed
- Harden, Rockets hold off Nuggets, clinch 3rd seed
Published On: Thu, Apr 06
Apr 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Members of the Houston Rockets Power Dancers perform during the game between the Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Pelicans 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets on Wednesday night clinched what long ago seemed inevitable, but that formality didn't undermine the pleasure they took in the feat.
Read the complete news article here...
James Harden recorded his 61st double-double and delivered a timely scoring flurry to carry the Rockets to a 110-104 victory and season sweep of the Denver Nuggets at Toyota Center.
Harden paired 31 points with 10 assists and scored 15 consecutive points to keep the Rockets (53-25) afloat in a tense fourth quarter. Harden drilled two 3-pointers during his run, including one with 56.4 seconds left for a 106-101 lead.
Houston clinched the third seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets surged into that position by winning 20 of 22 games starting on Dec. 1 and took the time to laud their exceeding expectations following a tumultuous 2015-16 campaign.
"We're just fortunate to be able to prove all the doubters wrong," Rockets guard Patrick Beverley said. "Everybody said we wouldn't even make the playoffs, and we're the third-best team in the NBA. That's something we should be proud of."
Clint Capela (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Trevor Ariza (15 points, 10 rebounds) added double-doubles, while Beverley chipped in nine points, 11 boards and two steals.
Nene added 16 points off the bench. With Harden and reserve guard Lou Williams contributing seven rebounds apiece, the Rockets finished with a plus-five rebounding advantage against the bigger, brawnier Nuggets.
"Patrick, Trevor -- those guys rebounded the ball excellent tonight," Harden said. "That's what we're going to need down the stretch. That helps our defense."
Five Nuggets scored in double figures, paced by forward Danilo Gallinari (23 points) and guard Gary Harris (17 points). Center Nikola Jokic tallied 12 points, 19 rebounds, nine assists and five steals for Denver (37-41), which dropped one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Houston shot 68.4 percent in the first quarter, including 5 of 9 from behind the arc. By the midpoint of the second quarter, the Rockets had extended an 11-point lead to 50-33, reaching that point on Capela's alley-oop dunk through Jameer Nelson's foul.
Capela missed the free throw and the Nuggets immediately initiated their slow climb into contention. Gallinari and rookie guard Jamal Murray combined to score the ensuing 14 points for Denver, with Murray converting a reverse layup to cut the deficit to 57-47 with under two minutes left in the half.
"We were down 17 and we were able to come back; but, against a team like this, it's tough to get down like that and come back," Gallinari said. "I thought it was a good game, but we have to now move on to the next one."
Denver had effectively seized the momentum and the Rockets rendered aid by shooting 3 of 16 on 3-pointers over the second and third periods. The Nuggets opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run to close the gap to one point and later surged ahead 73-71 on a second-chance basket by Harris at the 4:42 mark.
Yet, when Houston needed a surge, its offense responded with a 9-2 spurt to cap the period. Denver often answered but not with the volume of points needed, shooting 39.4 percent overall while missing 31 of 38 3-point attempts.
"You come into Houston after three games in four nights against one of the better offensive teams and hold them to 42 percent from the field and only 29 percent from 3. The defense was phenomenal," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. "We could not make a shot."
NOTES: Rockets G Eric Gordon returned to his reserve role after starting the previous five games. Gordon averaged 36.3 minutes during that stretch and Houston coach Mike D'Antoni wants to better regulate his minutes in advance of the postseason. Gordon averages 30.3 minutes off the bench. ... Nuggets G Jameer Nelson (calf) and F Darrell Arthur (knee) returned to action after missing the past two and three games, respectively. ... Rockets F Ryan Anderson could return Friday after missing six games with a right ankle sprain. If Anderson practices Thursday without pain, he will play against the Detroit Pistons.
More Featured News
Adam Silver: NBA rethinking one-and-done rule
Published On: Wed, May 31
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has never been one adverse to change since he took over that role from David Stern. For the most part, it has helped the Association move on from a bygone era tha...
NBA Team Option Decisions For 2017/18
Published On: Mon, May 15
Having created a post last week to track this offseasons player option decisions, were turning our attention today to team options. In the coming weeks, well use the space below to keep tabs on all...
NBA Teams Fed Up with Rockets' 'Jabroni' Foul-Drawing
Published On: Thu, May 11
What the NBA should do about the proliferation of players being fouled on three-point shot attempts is up for debate. What is not is who has practically cornered the market on how to draw them: the...
Sources: Will Barton won't OK Nuggets extension
Published On: Sun, Apr 30
Denver Nuggets swingman Will Barton will not agree to a contract extension this offseason and will test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018, league sources tell ESPN.Sources say the Nugg...
Nuggets GM: Re-signing Gallinari is 'priority No. 1'
Published On: Thu, Apr 27
Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said that re-signing Danilo Gallinari is a top priority for the organization.Il Gallo will opt out of his $16.1 million contract for next season to test ...