Fourth quarter schooling: Three takeaways from Tuesday’s 124-103 win over the Nuggets

Apr 4, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) shoots the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) and center Nikola Jokic (15) defend during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Fourth quarter schooling: Three takeaways from Tuesday’s 124-103 win over the Nuggets

Powered by a 38-point fourth quarter, the Rockets ended the home portion of their 2022-23 schedule with a resounding 124-103 win over a Denver Nuggets team trying to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Jalen Green led the Rockets with 32 points, 15 coming in the fourth, Alperen Sengun chipped in 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Porter Jr. added 20 points and nine assists. The win improves the Rockets to 20-60, matching their win total from last season.

Dominant fourth quarter

The Rockets have been close with the league’s best teams for three quarters only to crater in the fourth on many occasions this season. The opposite happened on Tuesday. Entering the fourth quarter with an 86-85 lead, the Rockets completely dominated the rest of the way against a team trying to sew up the top seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Houston outscored Denver 38-18 in the game’s final 12 minutes, holding the Nuggets to 7-of-18 shooting while forcing eight turnovers which turned into 10 points.

“Everyone wanted it,” Rockets guard Jalen Green said. “The defense was big time in that fourth quarter. I think that’s where we separated. We never really worry about offense, we’ve got a lot of talented people on our team that can put the ball in the hoop, and our biggest thing down the stretch of games is our defense, and I think we executed on that today.”

Alperen Sengun steals the show

Nikola Jokic had gotten the better of three matchups with Sengun this season entering Tuesday’s game, but Sengun flipped the script. He finished with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, with 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks.

“I try my best against him,” Sengun said. “I’m always trying to play tough against him, and I was really focused today.”

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who entered the game averaging a triple-double against the Rockets this season while shooting 68%, was limited to 14 points, converting on 7-of-13 shot attempts, 10 rebounds, and four assists while only playing 25 minutes. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas called Tuesday the best defensive game he’s ever seen Sengun play.

“He tried really, really hard. He was physical, took the physical challenge. He was active with his hands, and the pick and roll, the dribble handoffs and all that he was just really, really active and engaged on the defensive end.”

Stephen Silas’ last home game?

Tuesday’s win brings Silas’ record as Rockets head coach to 56-177, and he acknowledged before the game that this could be his last at home with the team.

“I have a three-year contract and this is the last home game of my three years, so whatever happens, happens after this, but I can’t be anything but proud.”

Silas signed a three-year contract with a team option for a fourth when the Rockets hired him in October 2020. He said Tuesday he had yet to speak with general manager Rafael Stone or owner Tilman Fertitta about his future with the organization. At this point, a return would seem unlikely, though the Rockets are closing the season strong.

“It’s been big with coach Silas with him telling us how much we mean to him, telling us how much we need to stay together,” Green said. “Hearing that out of his mouth makes us just come together more. We gotta be there for him, we gotta get dubs for him.”

Next up

The Rockets will play their penultimate game of the season when they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

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