The Nuggets inexplicably let James Harden dribble the length of the court for a layup to win the game

James Harden grabbed Nelson’s miss. He then proceeded to travel the entire length of the floor unbothered to score an easy layup at the rim.

James Harden scored the game-winning bucket Monday night. (Thomas Shea/USA Today Sports)

The Denver Nuggets have been a collective sieve defensively this season. If you made a low-light reel out all their miscues on that end of the floor, it would likely last several days. Denver’s guards often morph into turnstiles and let opposing ball handlers go right past them. Denver’s big men frequently get bullied inside. Miscommunications seem to happen way too much.

I’m not sure what happened on the play above, which came in the decisive moments of the Nuggets’ 125-124 loss the Houston Rockets on Monday, but it might’ve been their worst defensive moment in a season full of them.

The Nuggets began that possession with roughly 30 seconds remaining. All they could get was a Jameer Nelson step-back jumper — not ideal, obviously — and the shot came up well short.

James Harden grabbed Nelson’s miss. He then proceeded to travel the entire length of the floor unbothered to score an easy layup at the rim. In the most critical moment of the game, Harden traveled roughly 93 feet, used six dribbles and got a point-blank layup in a six-second span. The shot put the Rockets ahead by one.

That was the game. The Nuggets didn’t get a good look out of their ensuing possession.

The loss, which was Denver’s second to Houston in three nights, whittled the Nuggets’ lead over the Trail Blazers in the race for the West’s No. 8 seed to just 1/2 a game. Denver (33-37) and Portland (32-37) are now tied in the loss column. The Nuggets’ playoff chances look pretty grim considering how difficult their remaining schedule looks compared to Portland’s.

If the Nuggets do end up blowing this lead, it will be because of how poor their defense is. They ranked second-to-last in defensive efficiency entering the game. Sequences like Harden’s coast-to-coast layup can’t happen to teams fighting for their playoff lives.

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food.