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National Basketball Association
Preview
Denver at Houston
When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 13, 2014
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

The Houston Rockets are expected to have eight-time All Star center Dwight Howard back from a knee injury when they host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. Howard played his last game for Houston on Nov. 17 and the Rockets went 8-3 without him after a 9-1 mark with Howard in the starting lineup. If Howard returns, he’ll be up against a Denver team that’s been thinned up front with injuries but did welcome back power forward Kenneth Faried for Wednesday’s win against the Miami Heat.

These teams met in back-to-back games last April, but Howard missed both with an ankle injury. When he did play against Denver back in November 2013, the Nuggets intentionally fouled Howard down the stretch, but he responded by making 13 of 19 free throws in that span to propel Houston to a 122-111 victory. Denver coach Brian Shaw lamented himself for that tactic afterwards, so don’t expect a repeat of that strategy, even though Howard continues to struggle from the line this season, shooting 46.2 percent in his first 10 games, even lower than his 57.3 percent career average.

TV:
8 p.m. ET, Altitude2 (Denver), ROOT Sports (Houston)

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (10-12): The two hottest players for the Nuggets continues to be Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo. Chandler is averaging 19.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in six games this month, numbers he hasn’t sustained over a full month since December 2010. Afflalo has shot better than 54 percent from the floor in seven of his last nine games and seems to be getting hotter as he’s 15-for-22 in the last two games, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (17-5): Nobody’s scored more than James Harden the last two games as he’s combined for 78 points in those contests, though he needed 59 shots to get there. Harden can expect his shot totals to dial back once Howard returns but whether that’s into the teens, as it usually was before Howard’s injury, is difficult to tell. Harden has scored at least 34 points in four of the last six games to move him past Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers as the top scorer in the NBA at 26.4.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets backup PG Isaiah Canaan will miss his seventh straight game with an ankle injury.

2. Houston is 7-0 in games decided by five points or fewer after finishing 11-9 in such contests last season.

3. Nuggets backup F Danilo Gallinari will miss the next couple games to rest a bothersome knee.

PREDICTION: Rockets 117, Nuggets 104
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Denver 10-12 W1 6-4 4-8 0-3 10-9 2-4 5-7
Houston 17-5 W1 8-3 8-2 1-0 16-5 3-1 11-5
Last Meeting
Denver Houston
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
4/9/14 HOU 116 DEN 123 123 44 49.5 116 47 43.5
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Denver R. Foye 30 58.8 4
Houston J. Lin 18 54.5 2
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Denver K. Faried 9 1 8
Houston O. Asik 12 2 10
Assists Player  
Denver R. Foye 15
Houston I. Canaan 6
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Denver W. Chandler 389 45.5 39
Houston J. Harden 687 42.0 221
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Denver T. Mozgov 222 74 148
Houston D. Motiejunas 170 54 116
Assists Player  
Denver T. Lawson 252
Houston J. Harden 162
Quickchart Matchup
Denver Off vs  Houston Defense
103.5 Points For
95.2 Points Against
43.8 FG%
43.0 FG%
45.0 Reb
41.6 Reb
Houston Off vs  Denver Defense
99.2 Points For
104.7 Points Against
42.6 FG%
45.0 FG%
41.6 Reb
43.1 Reb