There are three matchups on Tuesday night this week in the NBA, one of them being a game between two playoff teams in New York City as the Brooklyn Nets will be hosting the Houston Rockets at the Barclays Center.
The Nets had a rough start to the season. They made some big moves in the offseason and looked prepared to be an Eastern Conference contender. When they started the year 10-21, many began to count them out, but now at 39-33, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just one.
The Rockets, who have been at the top of the Western Conference standings all year, still need to clinch a playoff spot as well, but they have a little less work to do. There is virtually no chance they will miss the playoffs, but tonight would be a big win if they want to keep their hopes of earning the three seed alive or clinching home court in the four vs. five matchup.
The Nets have won 13 straight home games, but the Rockets have beat them 14 straight times, a streak they will definitely be looking to end. Both teams will be shorthanded, as Dwight Howard (ankle) is not going to play, Patrick Beverley is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus and Terrence Jones is battling an illness. The Nets are still waiting for Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett to return and while that is most likely happening later in the week, we probably won’t see them on the court Tuesday night.
The first and only other time these two matched up this year was in Houston in late November. The Rockets crushed the Nets 114-95 while shooting an impressive 52 percent from the field, including an astounding 19-32 from beyond the arc. The Nets, on the other hand, shot 41 percent from the field and made just six of their 22 three-point attempts. The Rockets racked up 56 bench points and Chandler Parsons went off, scoring 21 points while making all seven of his field goal attempts, including six three-pointers. The Nets had 60 points from their bench because Jason Kidd benched four out his five starters during the second half of the game, leaving in Brook Lopez. Other than the big-man, the four starters (Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, Paul Pierce) combined for just seven points.
The Nets will have to play better defense this game, especially since the Rockets are scoring 114 points per game in their last six. If the Nets want to win, they are going to have to protect the three-point line, which they aren’t too good at as they allow opponents to shoot 36.8 percent from out there. They will have to look to force turnovers, as they force 16 per game and the Rockets are second worst in the league with 16.4 per game. If they can do both of these things, then they will be able to control the pace of the game.
The Pick: Without Dwight Howard, the Rockets aren’t at too much of a disadvantage since neither Lopez or KG will be down low for the Nets. Both teams will feature smaller lineups in this game, the Nets have been doing that for a while so they are comfortable with that. I think the Rockets will try to make this a fast-paced game. Look for James Harden to have another good game for Houston, as he is averaging 27 points, six assists and five rebounds per game over the team’s last ten. I think the Rockets take this one, 110-98.
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Barclay Center, Brooklyn, New York