Rockets face Nuggets in search of first road win

The Denver Nuggets could have several key players return to action for their matchup against the visiting Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Nikola Jokic (lower back pain), Jamal Murray (right hamstring strain) and Aaron Gordon (right heel strain) were all listed as questionable to face the Rockets, who dropped to 0-6 on the road this season by losing 121-115 to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Even if all three starters remain sidelined, the Nuggets have proven they can adapt. Playing without the trio on Monday, Denver recorded an impressive 113-104 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Reggie Jackson had 35 points and 13 assists while DeAndre Jordan contributed 21 points and 13 rebounds to help the Nuggets win their second straight game.

“Definitely one of the sweeter ones,” Jackson said. “We got our main guys out and it was really great for the team, a resilient group, the way we came together. I was just proud of the way we kept battling.”

Denver has dropped its first two meetings against the Rockets this season, both in Houston, including a 105-86 loss on Friday. Rockets guard Jalen Green scored 25 points in the win, while center Alperen Sengun added 21 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Houston will need to regroup after being eliminated from the NBA’s in-season tournament on Tuesday with the loss to Dallas.

Sengun continued his bid for the league’s Most Improved Player Award by putting up a season-high 31 points against the Mavericks. The third-year pro is averaging 20.9 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor.

Sengun worked to expand his offensive game during the offseason by adding a fadeaway jump shot.

“I’m attacking good,” he said. “When I’m dribbling, I can be dangerous over there. And now, players guarding you, they’re giving space. With that space now, I can use that (fadeaway) shot. When I’m really dangerous with that shot, it’s going to be difficult to guard me when I do it.”

Houston also has received consistent production from forward Jabari Smith Jr., who had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting against Dallas on Tuesday. Smith is shooting 51 percent after connecting on 40.8 percent of his shots last season.

“I don’t think his percentage (in 2022-23) was indicative of how good of a shooter he is, and he’s showing that this year,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said.

Houston has won three in a row against Denver after losing the previous 10. Even if the Nuggets are short-handed, the Rockets will need to contain players such as Jackson and Jordan.

Jackson had another outstanding game against the Clippers on Monday, when he reached the 30-point mark for the first time since the 2021-22 season. The point guard made 15 of 19 shots in 40 minutes against his former team.

“When Jamal Murray goes down to injury, Reggie’s out there just kind of running the show and doing it at a very high level,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “I challenged him for the rest of the year, just in his mind, no matter who we’re playing: Just tell himself he’s playing the Clippers again, because he’s great against that team.”