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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets win 6th straight with 107-104 win over Denver

POSTED: November 12, 2023 -- 11:25 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets held off a late surge by the Denver Nuggets Sunday night to earn a 107-104 victory. The Rockets have won 6 in a row; and, with tonight's win, the Rockets have won two in a row against the Nuggets after losing the previous 10.

Fred VanVleet led the Rockets with 26 points and Jeff Green (Uncle Jeff) scored 15 of Houston's 31 bench points to help get the win.

VanVleet has scored 20+ points in four of the past six games and five times overall this season. Over the past six games, VanVleet has a total of 109 points and 50 assists with 9 turnovers.

Houston (6-3) overcame another stellar performance from Denver big man Nikola Jokic. Jokic finished the game with 36 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists. Jokic tallied 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first quarter to lead the Nuggets to a 30-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.

However, the Rockets capitalized when Jokic took a rest and sat on the bench. Denver's bench reserves scored just 2 points in the first half while Rockets' reserves Aaron Holiday, Jae'Sean Tate, and Uncle Jeff combined for 10 points.

Houston trailed 50-46 at the half. VanVleet scored 9 points and Alperen Sengun added 8 points in the third quarter to help the Rockets win the third period 28-26 to trim their deficit to 76-74 heading to the 4th quarter.

Houston made 5 of 23 three-point field goal attempts through three quarters. Houston made 5 of 9 threes in the fourth quarter.

Tari Eason hit a three-pointer from the right corner for a 79-76 Rockets' lead then swished a second 3 in front of the Nuggets' bench to extend Houston's lead to 84-80 with 9:24 to go in the 4th.

VanVleet sank a three to increase Houston's lead to 7 (89-82) with 8:08 remaining in the game. Jeff Green sank the fourth Rockets' three-pointer of the quarter to boost the margin to 10 (94-84) with 4:49 on the clock; then, three minutes later, Uncle Jeff hit the fifth and final three-pointer for a 103-94 lead with 1:49 on the clock. Green's basket seemed to be the dagger; however, the Nuggets scored 8 in a row to cut Houston's lead to just 1 (103-102) with 19.5 seconds left in the game.

VanVleet was fouled and made both free throws for a 105-102 lead. Denver called timeout; and, after the timeout, Jae'Sean Tate stole the inbounds pass with 11.2 seconds remaining. Jeff Green split the 2 free throws before Denver guard Reggie Jackson score an uncontested layup to cut Houston's lead to 106-104 with 3.6 seconds to go in the game.

Denver fouled Dillon Brooks. Brooks made the first foul shot but missed the second attempt. The Nuggets did not have a timeout; therefore, Jokic launched a 53-foot shot attempt which fell well short to clinch the Rockets' sixth-straight win.

"We knew we would have our work cut out for us," VanVleet said after the game. "But, overall, I thought sticking to the game plan; trying to do the things that we do well; over the course of 48, we were able to come out with the win."

Alperen Sengun finished the game with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. The 23 points are the most he's scored in six career games played vs. Nikola Jokic. Sengun has scored 20 or more points in each of the past two games and three times overall this season.

"He played well," Uncle Jeff said of Alpi's performance against Joker. "I mean there's no answer for Joker; and, the way he plays. The skillset that he has; but, Alpi didn't allow the tough makes that Joker made to get him down. He stuck with it. He went at him as well on the other end; and, he played within the game and helped us win."

Jokic said of Sengun: "I think it is a good thing that they are playing a little bit more through him. I think that is going to benefit the whole organization. He is a guy who is not selfish. He wants to play for the team; and, he wants to pass. The whole team is going to move when the ball is in his hands. He played really good today."

The Rockets won despite being outshot 46.2% to 42.5% and outrebounded 49-45. Since the start of last season, Denver is now 37-3 when outshooting and outrebounding its opponent. Houston won the past two games despite being outshot and outrebounded. Last season, the Rockets were 1-21 in games in which they were outshot and outrebounded.

"I think it just means we're growing and getting better," VanVleet commented. "I think we can feel the trend trending upward a little bit."


The Rockets' next game is Friday, November 17, on the road, against the LA Clippers. Tip is set for 9 p.m. Central Time.

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