NBA highlights on Feb. 1: Nuggets beat Rockets with scoring runs
Li Xiang

Among the five NBA games on Friday, the Denver Nuggets claimed a 14-point victory against the Houston Rockets 136-122 at the Pepsi Center, taking their fifth straight win, and handing the Rockets their second straight loss.

Denver puts an end to losing record against Houston

Mason Plumlee #24 of the Denver Nuggets blocks a shot in the game they win against the Houston Rockets 136-122 on February 1. /VCG Photo

Mason Plumlee #24 of the Denver Nuggets blocks a shot in the game they win against the Houston Rockets 136-122 on February 1. /VCG Photo

Malik made the biggest contribution to Denver with a career-high 35 points with a remarkable field goal rate of 70.5 percent (12/17). Nikola Jokic was an assist away from a triple-double after putting down 31 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Torrey Craig from the bench also scored 22 points.

James Harden continued his scoring streak with another 30 points plus nine assists, though part of these points came from the garbage time around the end of the game. Kenneth Faried scored 23 points against his former team. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon added 20 and 17 points respectively.

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets under defense of Paul Milsap #4 of the Nuggets in the game on February 1. /VCG Photo

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets under defense of Paul Milsap #4 of the Nuggets in the game on February 1. /VCG Photo

Though the Nuggets are an improved team and are ranked second in the Western Conference, the Rockets have been their natural enemy. The Rockets have been successful using screens with Harden and Jokic to punish their opponents.

The first quarter of Friday's game seemed to follow the same scenario as Houston made eight shots from the 3-point line to score 43 points, making Denver's 35 look pale. Harden dropped 15 points this quarter with an field goal rate of 83.3 percent (5/6).

Malik Beasley #25 of the Nuggets celebrates after scoring in the game against the Rockets on February 1. /VCG Photo

Malik Beasley #25 of the Nuggets celebrates after scoring in the game against the Rockets on February 1. /VCG Photo

The game took an unfavorable turn for the Rockets in the second quarter. The Nuggets first used Mason Plumlee who had a height advantage to attack the restricted area. Thanks to that, Houston began to draw back their defense and that's when Denver's shooters started to get open shots from the 3-point line.

On defense, head coach Malone constantly changed his style ranging from sending two centers, having a small-ball squad in combination with switching between double-teaming and switching against screens. Such frequent changes confused the Rockets and neutralized their scoring. 

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Nuggets scores two points in the game against the Rockets in the game on February 1. /VCG Photo

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Nuggets scores two points in the game against the Rockets in the game on February 1. /VCG Photo

In order to stop Denver's three-pointers, the Rockets chose to expand their defense in the third quarter. In response, the Nuggets first let Jokic make a few plays near the basket before stretching out around the 3-point line. After Jokic sank a three-pointer, the player guarding him had to follow him out of the paint, leaving the Rocket's rim vulnerable again.

The two teams turned the game into a seesaw struggle in the first six minutes this quarter while the Rockets narrowed the score difference to around 10 points. However, then they fell into scoring drought again but the Nuggets remained on fire to launch another 13-2 run, expanding their lead to 20 points (113-93).

Players on the bench of the Nuggets celebrate in the game against the Rockets on February 1. /VCG Photo

Players on the bench of the Nuggets celebrate in the game against the Rockets on February 1. /VCG Photo

Though Houston tried to catch up in the fourth quarter, they couldn't reduce the score difference to less than 12 points before the game became garbage time. After this victory, Denver is tied with the Golden State Warriors with 35 wins while the Rockets saw the Utah Jazz catch up on the standings table.

Other games on Friday included: (away teams come first)

Memphis Grizzlies 92-100 Charlotte Hornets

Boston Celtics 113-99 New York Knicks

Oklahoma City Thunder 118-102 Miami Heat

Atlanta Hawks 112-128 Utah Jazz