Tonight, the NBA’s two leading scorers so far this season meet on national television.
The Brooklyn Nets had one of the two best offseasons in the NBA by nabbing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Even though Durant will miss the season with an Achilles tear, the Nets have climbed all the way back into the contender picture in the East after years of giving their picks to the Boston Celtics in the devastating Billy King trade in 2013.
With KD out, the expectations are lower for a Nets team that surprised a lot of folks by making the playoffs last season with a young core that they mostly kept. Joe Harris is an elite three-point shooter, Caris LeVert was coming along well before missing more than half the season with a dislocation in his foot, Jarrett Allen could be a better Clint Capela, and Spencer Dinwiddie literally beat the Rockets by himself in a game last season. Add in Irving, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince, and eventually Durant and it’s easy to see why Nets fans are excited.
That excitement hasn’t fully translated in the young season. The Nets are 1-3 but have been in several close contests just like the Rockets. They have two overtime losses to Minnesota and Memphis, and were in striking distance throughout against the Pacers two nights ago before losing 118-108.
As for the Rockets, the formula for winning is the same as it’s always been:
play defense outscore your opponents. Houston’s defense has been worse than abysmal, and if that doesn’t change the Rockets could be home for the postseason. Yes, they are 3-1 but the good teams in the Western Conference are not going to roll over like the teams that Houston has beaten.
James Harden finally got going against Washington and hopefully that’s a good sign moving forward. No one expected The Beard to continue shooting poorly but it was nice to see him hit 18-32 from the field. I’ve been Russell Westbrook’s harshest critic, yet so far his intensity has permeated to the rest of the team and has helped the Rockets fight through their characteristic lethargic spells.
The Rockets average 128 points per game and give up 128 points per game. The Nets average 120 points per game and give up 122 points per game. So expect plenty of scoring tonight, possibly in the ballpark of the Washington game.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT on ESPN