The first time these teams met was a bit of a turning point for Houston. They went into the game 1-5 and had just lost James Harden for a few weeks due to a hamstring strain. They were disappointing and the narrative was turning into “Does this team actually care anymore?”
Early on, you would have thought they still didn’t care. Brooklyn built a 14-point lead with 3 minutes left in the first half, and Rockets fans were rolling their eyes. Here we go again. Then the Rockets called timeout.
Mike D’Antoni doesn’t have Gregg Popovich’s innate sense for when to call timeouts. Just when opponents start to make a run, Pop usually calls a timeout. MDA likes to wait to see if Houston can right the ship. Last year, that was a viable strategy as Harden and CP3 could usually win games on their own. But this season had already proven to be different. So MDA called timeout with his team down 14, and the Rockets decided that they were done screwing around. The intense timeout, led by Paul, involved players holding each other accountable.
Houston then cut the 14-point lead to 5 by closing on a 13-4 run. Houston then built two separate 8-point leads in the second half only for Brooklyn to come roaring back. Finally, Houston held the Nets scoreless for five minutes in the fourth and pulled away.
Why do I bring up that game? Well, it’s to show how different that game was from this one. Now, Houston isn’t in trouble in terms of cohesiveness. Instead, they’re in trouble due to injury. Four Rockets scored in double digits that night: Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and Carmelo Anthony.
None of those dudes are playing tonight.
Caris LeVert dropped 29 to lead the Nets in scoring. He’s not playing tonight either since he’s out with a foot injury.
The Nets are no longer the laughingstock that Billy King made them. At 22-23, they are seventh in the East and have enough quality wins that I’m not going to list them. They are playing for real stakes right now and Nets fans should be really excited. Their youth is developing and that’s apparent throughout the roster. Their oldest starter is 27-year-old Joe Harris, who’s only in his fourth season. Rodions Kurucs has been a revelation as a rookie, and D’Angelo Russell has blossomed since leaving Los Angeles. They have the size (Jarrett Allen) and rebounding to make Houston’s night a long one.
Both teams have alternated wins and losses over their last five games, so someone is going to start a streak tonight.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT
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