Austin Rivers And The Rockets Believe Their Defense Can Win Them A Championship

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The Houston Rockets put the clamps on a usually potent Denver Nuggets offense Thursday night, holding a team that averages 111.1 points per game to just 78, including a strong perimeter defensive effort that held the Nuggets to a ghastly 19 percent shooting from deep.

The Rockets have been on a tear defensively since the All-Star Break, dropping their defensive rating from 112.2 to 105.3 as they chase the No. 3 seed out West before the NBA Playoffs begin next month. It was their defense that nearly helped the Rockets knock off the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals last summer (they held the Warriors to totals of 105, 92 and 94 points in their three wins, respectively), and guard Austin Rivers believes the team is poised to finally hoist that Larry O’Brien Trophy if they keep locking down teams defensively like they have in the second half of the season.

“If we play defense like (we did against the Nuggets), we can win the title,” Rivers told ESPN. “That’s what we believe around here.”

James Harden, who is putting up an historic offensive season and who poured in 38 more points against the Nuggets, is also a believer in how for the team’s defense can take them.

“I think since the break we’ve been top five in defensive,” Harden said. We have the ability to do it. We just have to do it.”

The Rockets have six games left before the regular season ends. How long they can maintain their defensive prowess might just dictate how deep they go in the playoffs.