Teams: Houston Rockets (49-23) @ Brooklyn Nets (38-33)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Barclays Center
- The Rockets won the first matchup with Brooklyn 114-95. Chandler Parsons led all scorers with 21 points on 7-7 shooting (6-6 from deep), although he did miss one of his two free throws.
- The Rockets as a team went 19-32 (59.4%) from deep, a season high.
- According to ESPN Stats and Info, no team in NBA history entered January at 10 or more games under .500 and went on to post a winning percentage of .600 after December. The Nets were 14-22 before New Year and have been 29-12 (.707 win%) since.
Injuries:Terrence Jones is sick and will be a game-time decision. Patrick Beverley is out with his right knee injury, but the good news is that it’s only temporary.Dwight Howard will miss tonight’s game as well with his injured ankle. His choice to have the cyst drained as opposed to surgically removed could come under fire if it continues to bother him, or if he ends up having the surgery well after the fact and is forced to miss more time.Kevin Garnett (back) and Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) will miss the tonight’s game for the Nets. Marcus Thornton has a sore back and is listed as questionable.Insider’s View – Q&A with Brian Faith of Brooklyn’s Finest. Follow Brian @TheBriGuy83.MF – Typically, it’s the young teams that struggle on the road. But the Nets, who have won 13 straight at home, are just 14-22 away from Barclays this season. Why is a team full of stars and veterans so much better at home than on the road?BF – While it’s true young teams tend to struggle on the road, so too do unfocused and injured teams. The Nets have been riddled with injuries and missing key players throughout the season. That inconsistency rears its ugly head more frequently on the road – when role players are thrust into unfamiliar roles in unfamiliar territories. Also, the Nets suffered from a SEVERE lack of cohesion to begin the season. They were awful on the road AND at home the first two months of the season. The reasons: new coach and system, major contributors learning to play with one another, completely revamped bench units, and a change in coaching staff and style almost immediately.Shortly after the All-Star break, the Rockets were getting a lot of credit for their post-New Year record. But now, it’s the Nets who warrant mention. After going 10-21 in the first two months of the season, Brooklyn has turned it around and has gone 29-12 in 2014 despite missing Kevin Garnett & Andrei Kirilenko (not to mention Brook Lopez) for long stretches. What has been the biggest difference with the team since January 1st?The most glaring difference since the New Year has been the players’ commitment to and comfort level with the new system. The injuries you mentioned have in some ways helped the team overall. Roles are more clearly defined. Early season systems and rules (for example, defending pick and rolls) have been settled upon. Above all else, the Nets found their identity. The Lopez and Garnett injuries have forced a certain pace and rotation onto the coaching staff that they probably would not have experimented with otherwise. As it turns out, that was the missing identity this team so sorely lacked to start the season.The Rockets are in a funny position in the standings where most fans would prefer to see them stay in the 4-seed so as to avoid a potential second-round matchup with the Thunder (who they are 0-3 against this season). Obviously, the Nets would prefer home-court advantage in a first round matchup with the Bulls, but how much of a priority is it for them to catch division-foe Toronto for the 3-seed? And who would you prefer to see Brooklyn play in the second-round, Miami or Indiana? After the tumultuous start to the season I think most Nets fans are just happy they turned things around and have become legitimate playoff contenders in the East. That said, I believe the team wants to ride this wave as long and as far as they can. A team with championship aspirations would never settle for second best in their own division. Yes, the arrivals of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce brought talks of titles not division championship banners, but there’s no doubt it will help them if the team can look back and say, “Look at how we started, and look how far we’ve come… there’s no reason we can’t win the whole thing right now, this season.”As far as preferred match up, I actually think the Nets match up best with the Miami Heat. For one, they have the star power and the egos to match LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They have players that have beaten James in the playoffs. Secondly, the aggressive nature of the Miami defense doesn’t do nearly as much damage to Brooklyn as it does other teams. The Nets length has been one of its greatest assets all season, and it is particularly pronounced against the Heat. The Nets also have a few different options defensively they can use to slow down Miami. Again, the length comes into play, but also so does the athleticism and body types of the Nets players. They won’t get pushed around or bullied by anyone on the Heat – even James.