Rockets Prepare For NBA's Toughest Back-To-Back

Rockets will play a back-to-back in Denver and Salt Lake City on upcoming road trip

Adam Spolane
January 24, 2020 - 3:06 pm

Photo by Rob Gray/USA Today

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- Four-game road trips in the NBA are tough. There are long flights that land at strange hours, you’re jumping from time zone to time zone, and hotel to hotel, but the Rockets get an extra challenge on their four-game that starts Friday: a back-to-back in Denver and Salt Lake City smack dab in the middle. 

“Toughest back-to-back in the NBA you can possibly have,” Rockets guard Austin Rivers told SportsRadio 610 Wednesday.

Rivers and his teammates begin their long journey Friday in Minneapolis and end it five days later in Portland. The Rockets will have one off day following the opener and another after concluding the back-to-back in Utah.

“It’s already tough (to play a back-to-back) no matter who the teams are,” Rivers said. “But we’re talking about two of the best teams in the NBA right now, so you add that to that, right now it’s hands down the toughest back-to-back you can have.”

As of Friday, the Nuggets and Jazz are two of the top four teams in the Western Conference standings with a combined .791 home winning percentage, but that’s just one reason a Denver/Utah back-to-back is so challenging.

“It’s tough because they’re both really good and they’re both altitude places,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said.

“F*cking elevation,” Rivers said. “It’s cold, crowds are incredible, both teams play at a high pace.”

The Rockets will be the fourth team to go through the Denver/Utah gauntlet without a night off and it’s the third straight season they’ve done so making it a little easier for players to prepare for what’s coming.

“(I’ll) Get a little more running (in) and try to go to sleep a little earlier before the first game since we won’t get a lot sleep between both games,” Rockets center Clint Capela said.

Capela said the first five minutes is when the altitude really impacts him, which confirmed what Rivers said. 

“Once you get a good run in, a good sweat you feel better for the rest of the game,” Capela said.

Rivers says he doesn’t feel the elevation in Salt Lake City the way he does in Denver, which makes sense. The building formerly known as the Delta Center is about 1,000 feet closer to sea level than Denver’s Pepsi Center which plays up its altitude with signs all over the place and a public address announcement reminding fans to drink plenty of water. 

“I’ll probably workout the morning of the game for like 30 minutes and try to push myself,” he said. “It makes it much easier to adjust that night. Going through your pregame shooting, most guys just lightly go through it. That’s the only place I really try to push myself to where I’m sweating bullets just to try to get that first wind out the way that way when I come in the game, I’m ready to go.”

With Sunday’s game tipping at 1:30 local time in Denver, the Rockets catch a bit of a break and get an extra six hours to recuperate for Monday’s night cap in in Jazzland, but between the competition and the elements the Rockets task is as tough as it gets.