Teams with a chance to make it to the playoffs are beginning to feel the pressure as the NBA's regular season winds down.
The Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets are two of those aforementioned teams still jockeying for position in the Western Conference standings and will close out a home-and-home series tonight in the Lone Star State.
Denver grabbed the upper hand with Sunday's 101-86 victory over the Rockets in the Rocky Mountains, as Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo each scored 20 points to lead the way. Corey Brewer posted 14 points in a reserve role and both Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari netted 10 points apiece for the Nuggets, who are seventh in the West -- one game ahead of Houston and one-half game behind defending champion Dallas.
"I didn't think we played that well as a team in the first half," Afflalo said on the team's website. "We had a lot of turnovers, the game was kind of ugly. Despite that, we were only down six points. Once we started fast breaking, defending better, we were able to open the game at that point."
The Nuggets have won three of four games and will try and stop a three-game slide as the visitor. They are 14-15 away from Colorado this season.
Houston has dropped three in a row since winning four straight -- all on the road -- and hopes to put the brakes on a three-game home slide tonight. It is 20-10 in Space City this season.
Luis Scola and Chase Budinger netted 19 points apiece last night for the Rockets, who got 12 points from both Chandler Parsons and Goran Dragic.
"The second half, we just missed a ton of shots. They ran off them, got into us and they played better, no question about it. They dominated the game," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said.
Rockets veteran center Marcus Camby is questionable for Monday's game due to a sore back. His rebounding prowess and inside presence will be missed if he is unable to play in this important matchup with Denver.
Houston has lost two of three meetings with the Nuggets, but has prevailed in six of the previous nine meetings in Texas.