Posted on December 31, 2019, by Travis Pulver

It remains to be seen if this version of the Houston Rockets is going enough to contend for the championship this year. But it is probably safe to say that they are going to be competitive and one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season.

They certainly put on a show on New Year’s Eve as they closed out 2019 with a 130-104 win over the Denver Nuggets.

With a healthy roster, the Rocket had little trouble with the Nuggets. After the first quarter, the Rockets led by 12 points, 38-26. By halftime, they pushed the lead out to 17 points but then saw the Nuggets roar back in the third and close the gap to just three points, 92-89.

But then the Rocket got the fourth quarter started with a 19-3 run to regain control of the game. When a five-point burst by Harden pushed the lead out to 22 points, 118-96 with about three and half minutes left, the night was done for Harden and the rest of the starters.

Overall, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni was happy with his team, but didn’t like how they let the Nuggets get back in the game with a huge third quarter, via ESPN:

“If you stop them and it went the other way, the game could have been over [earlier]. But we have that tendency of letting people back in and we’ve got to develop better habits. Because if you want to go deep in the playoffs, you can’t just turn it on.”

The game was also one of the first in a while where the Rockets were all relatively healthy. Eric Gordon had returned in the previous game, a loss to New Orleans on Sunday, after missing the last six weeks due to knee surgery. But while Gordon was back, James Harden (sprained toe) Clint Capella (bruised heel), and Russell Westbrook (load management) were all out.    

James Harden ended up leading the way for the Rockets Tuesday night with 35 points. Westbrook chipped in 28, and Capela added 16. After the game, Harden talked about what the team needs to do moving forward, via ESPN:

“We’ve just got to find a way. It will get there. We’re not where we want to be, obviously. It’s still early in the season. But we’ve got to find a way to sustain it for four quarters, and once we get that, it’s going to be pretty tough to beat us.”

With the win, they improved to 23-11 on the year, a half-game behind the Nuggets (2) and Clippers (3) and 3.5 behind the first-place Lakers. The season series with the Nuggets is now tied at 1-1, but the two will play again two more times this season (1/22 and 1/26).

They will be off for the next couple days before returning to the court Friday night with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers. It will be their first game against the 76ers this season.     

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