Red-hot Rockets will be big test for Nets on end of back-to-back

Photo courtesy YES Network

Time: 8 p.m. EST

Location: Toyota Center

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Photo courtesy YES Network

The Brooklyn Nets snapped their three-game losing streak after beating the Memphis Grizzlies 98-88 on Sunday. Brooklyn overcame multiple injuries, as DeMarre Carroll scored 24 points on 7-12 shooting and Joe Harris chipped in 13 points in his first start of the year as Allen Crabbe sat due to back issues.

Not only did the Nets make up for injured players on the road, but they also bounced back following their collapse against Portland on Friday. Celebrations will be short-lived, as Brooklyn leaves straight for Houston. 

Kenny Atkinson must urge his team to move on quickly, as the Rockets are an elite team and showed Saturday night that they are resilient as well when they turned a 22-point deficit into a 23-point thrashing of the New York Knicks. James Harden will look to repeat his big stat line of 37 points and 10 assists as he matches up with the No. 26-defensive rated Nets.

Brooklyn will also be finishing its third back-to-back set of the season. So far, the young Nets have not been affected by the quick turnarounds with a 1-1 record with short rest, featuring a victory against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Houston Rockets will be a step up in competition for the Nets, as they currently hold a 15-4 record and first place in the Western Conference. Mike D’Antoni’s offensive scheme is carving up opposing defenses all across the Association, with his team’s offense currently second in the NBA in points per game at 113.5, first in three-pointers made at 15.9 per game and first in threes attempted with 44 deep balls hoisted up each game.

Brooklyn’s offense matches up well, however, as the team is third in the league in three-pointers made, second in three-pointers attempted and third in points per game. The Rockets are well-balanced, as they are No. 22 in the league in turnovers per game and back that up with being third in steals per game with 9.2 per game.

For the Nets to win, they must contain Harden. The man with the beard finished second in MVP voting last year and as he is averaging 31 points and almost 10 assists this season, he is already an early favorite for this year’s MVP. 

Three things to watch for

  1. Chris Paul

The nine-time All-Star has had a rough start to his career in Houston. After a bruised left knee injury sidelined him for three weeks, Paul struggled against the Knicks as he failed to score in double figures for the first time since returning on Nov. 16.

Spencer Dinwiddie will be tasked to control the floor general, and Paul is averaging 12 points and 10 assists in five games this season.

  1. Brooklyn’s frontcourt

If Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is held out due to an ankle sprain suffered against the Grizzlies, Brooklyn’s frontcourt will be thinner in Monday’s matchup against Houston. Atkinson will likely rely heavily on Trevor Booker, who stepped up Sunday once RHJ went down, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 boards in 31 minutes.

Quincy Acy was a DNP-CD for Sunday’s game, and it’s likely he will be needed against Houston. Brooklyn will need the best of its centers, as Clint Capella has dominated NBA bigs this season, averaging 13 points and 11.5 rebounds per game on 68 percent shooting.

Tyler Zeller, Timofey Mozgov and in particular Jarret Allen will need to do their best to contain Capella from controlling the game.

  1. Houston’s defensive additions

When discussing this off-season’s top moves for Houston, some immediately turn to the Paul trade as the team’s No. 1 move. However, the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute have completely transformed Houston’s defensive identity. 

Houston has been starting Tucker in recent games, and allowing the lineup to have one of these defensive stoppers on the court at all times has made strives for Houston’s defense compared to year’s past, as each player is averaging at least one steal per game. The Rockets are able to deploy lineups consisting of Trevor Ariza, Tucker and Mbah a Moute, and this will be difficult for Carroll and the other Net forwards who may be harassed all game.