In second half of back-to-back, Nets to face speed demons

Scott Halleran

The Nets lost in a blowout Friday, but at least P. J. Carlesimo didn't play his starters a lot of minutes. That's good, because on Saturday, they'll be playing the Rockets, the team with the fastest pace in the league Of the five starters, only Reggie Evans (31:43) and Joe Joe Johnson (31:57) played more than 30 minutes.

They also have a lot of 'splaining to do. The first half of the Grizzlies game was as ugly as any this year (okay, the Spurs second half was uglier, but not by much). So, Houston gives them a chance to recoup ... and finish their road trip with a 3-1 record. It won't be easy. Houston is a young, athletic team, the kind that has given the Nets problems.

The Rockets are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive after a wildly inconsistent stretch. From January 9 through 19, they lost seven straight ... following a five game win streak! Since then, they're 2-1, but their two wins were against the lowly Bobcats and Hornets and their loss was against the Nuggets. The problem is their defense and carelessness with the basketball, not surprising for a team that values speed.

They lead the NBA in fast break points, at 18.5 per game (and 23 over the last three). They're in the top five of shooting efficiency as well as three-point attempts, a whopping 28 a game. They go to the line a lot as well, making almost 20 a game. But handling the ball is not their forte. They are dead least in turnovers, 28th in assists/turnover ratio. But they don't let up, being the NBA's top second half scorers.

Of course, they have one of the game's more electrifying backcourts in James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Harden, still only 23, is averaging 25.8 points per game. Lin, despite inconsistency, is averaging 12 and point forward Chandler Parsons, 14. None of their starters is older than 26.

For the Nets, there are some troubling trends, starting with Gerald Wallace who has had only one game of 10+ points this month, averaging 6.5 points in that stretch. Andray Blatche seems to have dropped off lately and Carlesimo has seemed to forget what MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic did not that long ago. Carlesimo said he expects Deron Williams will play Saturday. He suffered a quad contusion in the third quarter vs. Memphis.

The game starts at 8 p.m. ET, giving fans a chance to get a look at Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor, whose game vs. the Santa Cruz Warriors starts an hour earlier and can be seen on the D-League's YouTube Channel. Shengelia is averaging 30.5 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and three assists in his two games with the Armor, as Springfield's new "Toko Hub" will tell you. Taylor is averaging a mere 26.5 points and seven assists.

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