The Houston Rockets were one of the NBA’s more consistent offensive teams before the All-Star break, but they’ve been flat since returning.
A visit from the Denver Nuggets, the league’s worst defensive team on the road, could help them get back on track.
The Rockets go for their fifth straight home win when they face the Nuggets on Friday night.
Houston’s four-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday as it lost 104-83 to Utah. The Rockets (21-15) shot 39.0 percent, went 6 of 23 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 50-34 as they watched an eight-point lead in the second quarter turn into a Jazz rout.
“We cannot just in the third quarter decide that we’re not going to win the game and just let them do whatever they want,” said forward Luis Scola, who scored a team-high 18 points. “We’ve got to fight our way to the end and if we lose, we lose.”
Leading scorer Kevin Martin was held to six points – nearly 12 below his season average – while going scoreless in the second half. He missed all four field-goal attempts after halftime to finish 2 of 10.
It was the second straight game Martin and the Rockets struggled offensively. While they defeated Toronto 88-85 on Tuesday, they shot 38.7 percent. Martin scored 14 points but went 3 of 15 from the field and 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Houston went into the break eighth in the NBA with 97.5 points per game and ninth at 45.2 percent from the field. The Rockets were held to fewer than 90 points only three times before the break.
Houston could have an easier time against Denver, which has had little success stopping teams away from home. The Nuggets have lost four straight road games, giving up an average of 108.0 points over that span to raise their average to 103.6 allowed on the road – worst in the NBA.
Denver defeated Portland 104-95 on Wednesday, the first time in seven games it held an opponent to fewer than 100 points. The Nuggets are giving up 101.1 points a game overall, near the bottom of the league.
Denver received a boost from the return of point guard Ty Lawson, who missed two games with a sprained left ankle. He scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help hold off a late rally by the Trail Blazers, also finishing with nine assists.
The Nuggets hope for a similar lift from the impending returns of three others from injuries. Reserve Rudy Fernandez, averaging 9.3 points, is optimistic about returning Friday from a strained lower back, while forwards Danilo Gallinari and Nene are expected back shortly as well.
Gallinari, averaging a team-high 17.0 points, hasn’t played since a 99-90 loss to Houston on Feb. 6.
Despite their recent slide and the injuries, the Nuggets are very much in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
“We’re still hanging in with teams like Oklahoma City, the Clippers, all the top teams and we have three starters hurt,” Lawson said. “Once we get them back, we’re going to be a team everybody’s scared of.”
Denver, however, has lost six of eight away from home. It’s dropped three in a row overall to Houston.