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Game Day: Houston Rockets Seek 5th Straight vs. Reeling Nets

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Game Day: Nets vs. Rockets

With Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley returning to the active roster the only player on the roster not healthy is Donatas Motiejunas. While this could be considered a trap game with the Nets desperate to finally get in the win column the Rockets start to the season should be an ample reminder of why it’s important not to take any team for granted.

The Houston Rockets who started the season losing all 3 of their opening week games followed it up with 4 straight wins in week two with big wins over top Western teams Oklahoma City and Los Angeles Clippers. The game in LA provided major gains for the squad with James Harden scoring over 40 (in successive games) and Dwight Howard registering a 20-20 performance.

While the Rockets look to extend their win streak to 5 the Nets simply want to get a win as they are one of the last two teams in the Association without a win on this season (Philadelphia is the second team).

With that, let’s compare the teams and tonight’s match-up:

The Details

Venue: Toyota Center, Houston Texas

Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT

TV: ROOT

Radio: 790 AM

Recent History:

Houston swept the series last season, have an 8 game win streak at the Toyota Center and have won 16 of their past 17 games versus the Nets.

Walking Wounded:

Nets:

  • Brook Lopez is listed as probable after leaving the Nets last game with soreness in the foot he had surgery on
  • Willie Reed – thumb, out until late December  at a minimum
  • Juan Pablo Vaulet – ankle, targeting December return
  • Chris McCullough – knee Rotoworld says he may be out for entire season while CBS says he may be back in the New Year

Rockets:

  • Patrick Beverley  practiced with the team Wednesday and is available for tonight’s game
  • Likewise Terrence Jones  also practiced with the team Tuesday and is also available to play.
  •  Donatas Motiejunas – still recovering from off season back surgery, no update on scheduled return date

Projected Starters:

NetsJarrett Jack, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Johnson Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez

Rockets: Ty Lawson, James HardenMarcus Thornton, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard

Grading the Match-ups:

Point Guard – Jarrett Jack vs Ty Lawson:

Jack had the worst differential of all playoff players. He’s improved a little, but the Nets are better on both ends of the court when he’s on the bench.

Lawson had a relatively quiet offensive effort versus the Clippers, however with Harden and Howard producing at the top of their games he wasn’t required to do more.

Edge: Ty Lawson

Shooting Guard: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson vs. James Harden

Though the Nets are high on Hollis-Jefferson and he fits the type of player coach Lionel Hollins would love his lack of offense makes him a major detriment for the Nets as James Harden will eat him alive, not to mention be able to slack off on the defensive end.

Edge: James Harden  This match-up is prime for fans to witness a third consecutive 40+ scoring effort

Small Forward:  Joe Johnson vs  Trevor Ariza

If  Joe Johnson was remotely close to the player of past seasons I’d give him the slight edge, but it’s impossible to give him the nod this season especially considering how far his game has declined (his $25 million contract not withstanding):

  • Posting his lowest point total in 13 seasons (10.3 points per game)
  • Shooting 10% less from the field (32.9%) over last season (43.5%)
  • Most concerning is how much his 3-point shooting has dropped off. Last season he shot 35.9% – this season 17.4%

While dissecting the numbers of Trevor Ariza I discovered a very interesting stat, though many assumed he wasn’t hitting his 3-point shots the truth is he’s only 1 percent under last season (34.9% vs 35%), but his 2 point field goals are where he’s dropped off significantly as last season he shot 48.5% whereas this year hes only shooting 31%. Reasonably him having to play the power forward role has put him in an awkward position having to score more in the paint. With his return to the small forward let’s keep an eye on this stat.

Edge: Trevor Ariza  Sure Joe Cool could have a throw back game, but it’s not likely to happen facing the Rockets top defender. It’s more likely he’ll be kept busy on the defensive end with Ariza who might just have a huge offensive night.

Power Forward: Thaddeus Young versus Terrence Jones

While Lopez has been cited as the main star of the Nets, I’d argue Thaddeus Young is the main talent especially from a 2-way perspective. Unfortunately there isn’t enough depth or versatility surrounding him.

With Terrence Jones returning to practice it offers Kevin McHale roster depth. Normally a player returning from injury might come off the bench but Jones’ injury wasn’t one that kept him from staying in game shape, rather it was precautionary (and given Jones track record for freak accidents that was wise). Also the last time out versus the Nets TJ registered a double-double of 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Edge:  I mean it feels like a broken record if I go with Jones, so let’s keep it interesting and call this one EVEN.

Center: –  Brook Lopez vs. Dwight Howard 

The automatic thought is to give this one to Lopez since he scores 21 points per game, but there are viable arguments for Howard:

Lopez’s numbers: 20.4 points, 7.7 rebounds (2.4 offensive boards), 1.7 assists, 1.7 block

Howard’s numbers: 17.0 points, 12.3 rebounds (4.8 offensive boards), 1.8 assists, 1.5 blocks

Edge: Dwight Howard He’s been putting up huge numbers with a playoff type intensity. But with the combination of Brooklyn being such a bad team and Terrence Jones back maybe McHale gives him some additional rest.

Reserves:

Nets: Shane Larkin, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thomas Robinson, Wayne Ellington

Rockets: Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer,  Montrezl Harrell,  Patrick Beverley

With everyone except Donatas Motiejunas healthy the Rockets finally can utilize the depth Daryl Morey worked hard to add this summer. The fact it’s Brooklyn only serves to give the Rockets an opportunity to utilize that depth and build some bench chemistry.

Edge: Rockets Seriously, the Nets are awful.

Keys to Winning:

  • BURY THEM EARLY: When teams are this bad the natural instinct is to come out without intensity. The Rockets need to learn from their first week and first game versus the Nuggets and end this one early so they can give their stars lots of rest and let the bench develop their own chemistry.
  • PLAY THE ODDS: Brooklyn rank 29th in offense as well as net differential and rank 27th on defense. They are dead last in points per game (90.4) and 3-point percentage (23.6%).
  • DON’T FALL FOR THE TRAP: Brooklyn need a win, but if the Rockets learned anything from their opening night game they won’t underestimate a desperate and motivated team.

The Pick:

The odds makers have made the Rockets favored by 12.5 points with an over/under of 206 points.

Logically the quality of these two teams is light years apart, but there is a natural tendency for teams facing lesser quality teams to take their foot off the gas. Fortunately they’ll want to extend their win streak, which should motivate them.

More from Space City Scoop

If there is a concern, I’ve noticed the referees factoring in the outcome of games this season, especially games with big spreads like this one. Sure some can say the zebra’s helped the Rockets in LA, but they were leading at the time and momentum was still in the Rockets favor. The zebra’s stole a game from the T-Wolves on 3 bad calls vs. Portland and shafted Orlando in a couple of early games.

In just the past 4-days the officials have admitted to making errors in the Clippers/Houston game and the Raptors/Knicks game. Moreover this apparent bias isn’t leaning to the better team, home team or favorites, it’s arbitrary and more often than not it’s the underdog I’m seeing getting the biased calls.

More from Space City Scoop

The only way to ward against this is to be aggressive defensively and if the referees start doling out a ton of fouls to only one team the head coach has to take a technical to nip it in the bud. I’m not sure why there has been such poor officiating (or what seems to be biased officiating), but Adam Silver better take care of this quickly because it’s truly a bad look for the NBA.

I don’t want to jinx the Rockets, but I’ve witnessed more games in 2 weeks than all of last season that the referees have been a factor in. At this point the Secaucus location appears to be more of a symbol than an actual resolution to improvement.

Prediction:

Logically this should be a 20+ point Rockets blow-out and while I don’t want to paint a dark picture I’ll reiterate the zebra’s have been a nightmare this season especially in how they call games with big point spreads. If it happens tonight I still believe the Rockets will win, but be prepared because this situation is becoming more the norm that the exception. Hello Mr. Silver… this is NOT a good luck for the NBA!

For more exciting news and stories on the Brooklyn Nets visit our affiliate Fansided site: Nothin But Nets

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