Nuggets-Rockets Preview

Yao Ming is set to take the court in front of his home fans for

the first time since the 2009 playoffs. The Houston Rockets are

more motivated by trying to avoid their worst start in 11

years.

Yao is expected to return for the winless Rockets in Saturday

night’s home opener against the Denver Nuggets.

Houston is seeking to avoid its first 0-3 start since losing its

first five games in 1999-2000. This will be the first appearance at

home since Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the

Lakers for Yao, who missed all of last season after undergoing foot

surgery and is being limited to 24 minutes per game in 2010-11.

Yao fouled out after playing just less than 24 minutes in

Tuesday’s season-opening 112-110 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles.

He finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. The Rockets chose to

rest him as a precaution the following night, when they lost

132-128 at Golden State.

The winless start has created an early sense of urgency for the

Rockets, the only team in the Southwest Division yet to post a

victory.

“We need to follow the scouting report a little bit better,”

guard Aaron Brooks told the Rockets’ official website. “Some of the

stuff we did was just uncharacteristic as far as letting shooters

get into a groove and get open shots. We just have to get

better.”

The Rockets started 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes in Yao’s place. He

performed admirably, with 16 points, eight rebounds and six

assists, but Houston still made a move to bolster its frontcourt

Friday by signing 15-year veteran center Erick Dampier.

The 6-foot-11 Dampier played the last six years with Dallas. It

is unclear if he will be available Saturday.

Houston was disappointed with its defensive effort Wednesday, as

Warriors guard Monta Ellis scored 46 points. The Rockets know

they’ll have to be better against Denver’s array of scorers led by

Carmelo Anthony.

“You have to understand your defensive spacing,” forward Shane

Battier said. “For guys like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and

Chauncey Billups, you have to know how far you’re able to help off

your man but still recover if they make the swing pass to your man.

And you have to do it all within the framework of the team

defensive scheme.”

Battier had trouble last season against Anthony, who averaged

41.5 points in two meetings. The Nuggets (1-1) won two of three

overall matchups with the Rockets. Anthony missed one of the wins

due to a sprained left ankle.

Denver has lost its last five games at the Toyota Center with

Anthony in the lineup. The Nuggets have won two of three at Houston

in that stretch when the superstar has not played.

With trade rumors continuing to swirl around Anthony, Denver

opened this two-game trip with a 101-95 loss at New Orleans on

Friday. Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who

led by five early in the fourth quarter before faltering.

“We made too many mistakes late in the game – too many turnovers

in the fourth quarter,” coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets will try to slow down Rockets forward Luis Scola,

who is averaging 27.0 points and 16.0 rebounds.