Nets @ Rockets: Three Things To Watch

Deron Williams, Jeremy Lin

Round 3… but Round 1 in new uniforms. (AP)

The Houston Rockets host the Brooklyn Nets at 8 P.M. tonight in Houston. Here are three things to watch out for in tonight’s contest:

1) Deron Williams vs. Jeremy Lin. This is the obvious one, and the fun one — these two are facing off for the first time in their respective new uniforms since Williams, then a New Jersey Net, lit up Lin on February 20th, 2012, scoring 38 points at Madison Square Garden, including this linked video of three threes in about 90 seconds that turned it from a close game into a laugher.

Of course, the only reason that game was so significant was because of what happened the time before; Deron Williams and New Jersey’s porous defense gave birth to the international craze known as Linsanity, allowing Lin to shoot 10-19 for 25 points, most of which in a back-breaking, mind-bending fourth-quarter rally to lead the Knicks to victory.

Williams admitted that he’d circled the February 20th game on his calendar for revenge. But even though Lin’s in a new uniform, I imagine it’s hard to shake just how embarrassing that first performance was, and I wonder if Williams wants to take it to Lin again. I’m not one that normally gets wrapped up in narrative-esque stories, but this one should be fun to watch.

2) James Harden vs. Joe Johnson. Call me a sucker for this backcourt matchup. It’s true. After Williams vs. Lin, Harden vs. Johnson is an equally fun competition of scorers; Harden may be the best shooting guard in the league not named Dwyane or Kobe (and that gap’s closing), and Johnson’s not far behind (though that gap’s widening). Johnson in particular has ramped up his efficiency in the last month, shooting 43% from beyond the arc and scoring 19 points per game in January. Harden’s been on a tear all season, but his shooting percentages both from the field (41%) and behind the arc (26%) in January fall below Johnson’s mark from beyond the arc alone. Should be an interesting matchup of scorers tonight.

3) Filling the gaps. In Memphis, the Nets found themselves burned pretty much every which way — the Grizzlies tossed the ball around them in the half-court offense for easy layups and open jumpers, had nearly as many offensive rebounds (11) than the Nets had total rebounds (13) in the game-deciding first half, and picked up eight fast-break points and 21 second-chance points in that first half alone. The Nets seemed somewhere between clueless and lethargic in Memphis.

To make matters even worse, the Nets — proud owners of the slowest pace in the NBA — are facing off against the team with the fastest pace in the NBA by far, at nearly 99 possessions per game. The Nets have not done well against teams that run and run and run, and Houston is the type of team that will do that to them.

Maybe now that Andray Blatche is in the city he thought he was in yesterday, he & the team will look more like professional basketball players?