There were great expectations on James Harden and the Houston Rockets as they started their campaign at the Toyota Center. But Harden failed to shoulder it on the first night as the Rockets succumbed to a 105-85 defeat in the hands of a re-building Denver Nuggets.
Dwight Howard was missed on-court from the Rockets’ perspective. Howard was suspended for picking up excessive fouls during the playoffs of last season. And the Rockets lacked the flair needed to win.
“Improvement is going to happen,” said an optimistic James Harden. “My concern is how we get better offensively and defensively.”
Harden led the Rockets with 22 points, and took 9 free throws. The Nuggets, on the other hand, played with more pace and passion. Danilo Gallinari led them with match-high 23 points and nine rebounds. Kenneth Faried added 18 points and nine rebounds.
“My father used to work with the Knicks years ago,” Denver coach Michael Malone said about his strategy to throttle Harden after the match. “Their whole mantra was ‘Make them feel you.’ Good defensive teams make people feel you for 48 minutes and I think we did that the most part.
“Anytime you play against a great player like James Harden, you want to be physical, make him feel you, make him see bodies. Gary Harris did a great job, was into him all night long. Our bigs were in support on all those pick and rolls.”