James Harden and the Houston Rockets began the month of February on fire, dropping 43 points in the first quarter against the Nuggets in Denver. The reigning MVP contributed 15 in that first period and looked set to comfortably extend his historic scoring streak to 25 games scoring 30-plus points.
That's when the Nuggets put the clamps down and the shots stopped falling for Houston. Over the middle two quarters, the Rockets only scored 52 points while giving up 78.
2019 All-Star reserve Nikola Jokic did his usual with a near triple-double performance of 31 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists on 12-of-15 shooting.
NO-LOOK JOKER!- NBA (@NBA) February 2, 2019
He's tallied 29 PTS, 13 REB and 9 AST on @ESPNNBA. #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/OHIS7IeJUs
On Friday, Malik Beasley forced Jokic to share the spotlight. With Jamal Murray (ankle) missing the game, Beasley erupted for a career-high 35 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including this monster transition dunk to put an exclamation point on the win:
THE RISE ft. Malik Beasley! #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/0YXb9umtPE- NBA (@NBA) February 2, 2019
Apart from Jokic and Beasley, the Nuggets had five other players in double figures, led by 22 points by reserve Torrey Craig (8-of-11 shooting).
Denver, as a team, shot 62.2 percent from the field and 45.2 percent on 14 made 3s. They recorded an assist on 37 of their 51 made field goals while only turning the ball over eight times.
Despite the Golden State Warriors' recent 11-game winning streak, this win for the Nuggets takes them back to the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Rockets, meanwhile, had four of their five starters in double figures, led by Harden, who recorded 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds. He barely kept his 30-point historic streak going with a three in the waning moments once the game seemed to be done.
James Harden recorded his 25th straight 30-point game, tied for the 3rd-longest streak in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/Aed3uhT0lz- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 2, 2019
Chris Paul recorded 20 points and six assists, but Houston was simply outplayed in Denver. The Rockets' stats would have comfortably won them a game on another night against another opponent - 52.9 percent shooting from the field, 16 made 3s on 36.4 percent shooting and just 10 turnovers.
This contest was the first game of a back-to-back for both teams.
Tomorrow, the Nuggets fly out to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves, while the Rockets look to bounce back against the Jazz in Utah.