Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Matchup Preview 12/31/19: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Daily Fantasy

Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Preview

Two of the top four Western Conference powerhouses will face off and look to end the year strong on New Year’s Eve. The Nuggets are currently 2 games back of the 1st place Lakers, having won 9 of their last 10. The Rockets sit fourth in the West and will look to bounce back after a disappointing loss to the Pelicans.

This is their second matchup of the season, with the Nuggets taking the first game on a 10-point victory. While they were able to limit James Harden to only 27 points, doing that again will be a tough task. The Nuggets were able to neutralize the role players of the Rockets as well, with only Capela (outside of Harden/Westbrook) scoring double figures. With a balanced attack and deep bench, the Nuggets can get scoring from anywhere.

The key will be defending on the perimeter and controlling the boards. The Rockets average 118.8 points per game at home, while the Nuggets average 107.2 per game on the road. The Rockets are the second-best team in the league for points per game, and they can explode offensively at home.

James Harden is ironically a slightly worse scorer at home, while Nikola Jokic is noticeably worse on the road this season. Look for Jamal Murray and Will Barton to help offset the dropoff. This matchup will feature some of the best guard play in the NBA, with elite centers in the paint. 

TV Schedule

Date: 12/31/19
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Arena: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

Injuries

Rockets: James Harden, Clint Capela (DTD), Nene, Gerald Green (O)
Nuggets: Gary Harris (Q), Paul Millsap, Bol Bol (O)

Houston Rockets Starting Lineup

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: James Harden
SF: Danuel House
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Clint Capela

Rockets Analysis

Houston RocketsThe Rockets have had some disappointing losses of late. This includes a  Christmas day loss to the Warriors and a Pelicans team still finding their way. Lonzo Ball caught fire against the Rockets with a 27 point performance. The Rockets may go into this game with more emphasis on the defensive end, as they have allowed too many average to above-average role players to get going against them. Heading into the New Year, look for Harden to have a big game under the bright lights. Considering the depth of the Nuggets and questionable perimeter defense for the Rockets, look for a guard or wing to have a big game for the Nuggets. 

One possible difference-maker heading into this matchup is Eric Gordon, who just came back after missing six weeks due to knee surgery. He can go off for 20+ points at any time. The three-headed snake of Gordon, Harden, and Westbrook will allow the Rockets to score enough points. PJ Tucker has been struggling of late, shooting only 35 percent from the field in the last 8 games. If Capela (Day-to-day)  is unable to play, they may struggle on the glass and defensively in the paint. Daniel House Jr. and Ben McLemore are both able to provide solid scoring and knock down open shots. Offensively, the Rockets should have no problem.

 

Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup

PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Gary Harris
SF: Will Barton
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Nikola Jokic

Nuggets  Analysis

Denver NuggetsThe Nuggets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. After a slow start, Nikola Jokic has come on as of late. He currently ranks 2nd at his position for fantasy and continues to do everything on the court. If Gary Harris is able to play, their attack offensively on the perimeter will be hard to handle with Murray and Barton. Defensively, the Nuggets have been solid for not allowing star perimeter players to have huge games. Like previously mentioned, the first matchup kept Harden in check well below his season average. They have held guys such as Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, and Kemba Walker to 11, 13, and 19 points respectively. Although Westbrook went for 25 points in the last matchup, that was largely due to double teams and open shots. Without consistent scorers on the wing for the Rockets, look for the Nuggets’ downfall to either be turnovers (7th most), or a huge game from Harden. Michael Porter Jr. has put together solid back-to-back games. If given the minutes, look for him to be an X-factor. 

 

Key Player Matchups

Jamal Murray  vs. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook is a fierce competitor, and Jamal Murray is a skilled hooper. Both have the ability to put the ball in the basket, but Murray can get a bucket through the flow of the offense. Given the Nuggets perimeter defensive ability mentioned earlier, Westbrook could easily struggle in this matchup. If the Nuggets double and trap Harden consistently, he will have the ball in his hands even more. If Westbrook wants to win this matchup, he will have to dominate in transition and be as efficient as possible. 

Nikola Jokic vs. Clint Capela

With Paul Millsap already being ruled out, Jokic will have to dominate in the paint and on the boards. He won’t necessarily need to take over scoring-wise, but his defense in the paint and pick-n-roll will be essential for their success against a perimeter-focused offense. Capela only has three things to worry about: protecting the rim, setting great picks, and defending Jokic. If Capela is unable to play or gets into foul trouble, the Rockets will have a hard time containing Jokic. Capela is no Jokic offensively, but he is ranked 9th at his position for fantasy and is a difference-maker in this Rockets’ system. Averaging nearly 2 bpg, his presence will make Jokic and attacking perimeter players have to adjust their shot at the rim.

Daily Fantasy

A game like this will show exactly who has one of, if not the best guard play in the league. Both teams are somewhat weak at the wings, with high-profile centers and solid to great benches. The Rockets duo, Westbrook and Harden are your top 2 fantasy point-getters for this matchup, followed by Nikola Jokic. If Capela can play, his efficiency and double-double numbers will be a sure thing. The balanced attack for the Nuggets will allow for Murray or Barton to have solid, yet efficient games. 

Bet on Matchup

If you’re in Pennsylvania, you can bet on this matchup. Sports betting is legal in PA. Our top-rated online sportsbook bonus offers can be found in our articles: Fanduel Sportsbook promo code, DraftKings Sportsbook promo code & Pointsbet promo code.

  
I am an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University studying economics and business. I serve as a member for the Sports Analytics Club at CMU. My interests include data analysis, fantasy, player projections, and performance evaluation.

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