Rested Nets seek answers in Houston


The Nets (0-7) are still searching for their first win of the season in Houston tonight.

While another loss in Milwaukee on Saturday has continued the early season blues, the good news about Brook Lopez’s foot and three days of rest hopefully give a boost to a squad that desperately needs a quick turnaround. In the next ten days, the Nets will play six games (five on the road), including the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. The season could slip away if the losses continue to pile up.

The Rockets (4-3) have also had three days off after an exciting 109-105 victory over the Clippers Saturday night in Los Angeles. Despite a controversial missed goaltending call on Dwight Howard which would have tied the game with 18 seconds left, the Rockets held off the Clippers for their fourth straight victory, thanks largely in part to James Harden’s season-high 46 points and career-best side-eye.

The Rockets’ success this season has hinged on the play of their bearded star. In the first three games (20 point losses to Denver, Golden State, and Miami), Harden averaged 18 points per game but an alarming 22.2 percent (12-54) from the field. During the ensuing current four-game winning streak, Harden is averaging 38 points on 46.3 percent (45-97), shooting including back-to-back 40 plus point performances this past weekend.

Turnovers have been a concern. Harden’s style of play leaves him prone to turnovers, but he’s averaging 4.6 per game, a bit higher than usual, after three straight games with seven turnovers.

While eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard continues another typical year, averaging 17 points and 12.3 rebounds, ex-Nets guard Marcus Thornton has been a given a needed boost to his new team. After spending the last two seasons with four different teams, Thornton is off to a terrific start in Houston, averaging 16.6 points a game on 45.3 percent shooting (40.5 percent from three point range).

An eye injury to starting power forward Terrence Jones propelled Rockets coach Kevin McHale to play a smaller starting lineup the past five games, which has enabled Thornton to start games alongside Harden, Howard, Trevor Ariza, and fellow offseason acquisition Ty Lawson. The strategy has paid dividends so far, but Jones is expected to return to action tonight against the Nets.

Patrick Beverley, out the last two games dealing with a concussion, is also expected to play tonight.

What to watch for: Brook’s foot. After dealing with foot injuries and surgeries in the past that have hampered his play and kept him sidelined, Brook Lopez should be the center of attention in the first quarter tonight, as all eyes will be on his movement and sore foot. With little else positive thus far into the season, Lopez has been solid, averaging 20.4 points per game. He told reporters at Wednesday’s shootaround that he’s playing unless someone tells him otherwise.

Tip-off is at 8:00 PM EDT at Toyota Center in Houston, TX.