The Nets try to make history at home

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

And also clinch a playoff spot.

Thirteen straight. Facing Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night, the Nets won 114-99. At 39-33, the Nets are two games behind Toronto for the Atlantic Division and two games behind Chicago for the fourth seed. If the Nets win this game, they will set a franchise record with their 14th straight home win. A win also clinches a playoff spot for Brooklyn. This is the first night of a back-to-back and the Nets will make the trip to MSG to play the ninth seeded Knicks on Wednesday.

The team looking to prevent history from being made is the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have been having a great season and find themselves in fourth place in a crowded Western Conference playoff bracket. They're two games behind Los Angeles, but lost to the Clippers on Saturday night. The Rockets are also on a back-to-back, and they'll be headed up north to play the Raptors on Wednesday.

Barring a matchup in the NBA Finals, this will be the final meeting between the teams this season. Back in November, the Rockets gave the Nets a 114-95 #BEATEMDOWN in Houston.

The season so far

What's happening with these two? Let's check it out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Houston

Record

39-33 49-23

Pace

93.81 98.38

Offensive Efficiency

104.4 108.5

Defensive Efficiency

104.2 102.4

Offensive Rebounding percentage

21.9 27.7

Turnover rate

15.2 16.7

Assist rate

16.7 16.2

Rebound rate

47.1 52.1

Free throw rate

31.5 38.9

Effective Field Goal percentage

51.1 53.4

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.4 48.5

Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett are still out, but it sounds like they're on the comeback trail. Kirilenko might be back for Wednesday's game against the Knicks while Garnett is aiming for next week.

The Rockets are a bit banged up. Almost Net Dwight Howard is dealing with an ankle injury and might not play in this contest. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley tore his meniscus and is hoping to make it back for the playoffs. Should the Rockets be panicking with Beverley out of action? Not really.

With Beverley out, Jeremy Lin will be starting in his place. Lin is coming off of a pretty bad game against the Clippers. He shot 1-9 from the floor and was dominated by Chris Paul. He'll be facing another difficult matchup, this time against Deron Williams. Williams has been having a great second half, but had a lousy game against the Timberwolves on Sunday. Williams shot 1-9 from the floor and only played 31 minutes. And seeing as this is a national TV game, you can bet the TNT announcers will bring up the night Lin demolished Williams at Madison Square Garden during the broadcast.

The Joe Johnson and Chandler Parsons matchup looks to a be a fun one as well. Parsons is having another good season and is a solid third-fourth option for the Rockets. He's averaging 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists in close to 38 minutes a night. He'll hope to use his length and quickness to derail Johnson. Johnson had a great month of March, averaging 17 points a night on close to 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from deep. Parsons will work to keep Johnson off the three point range and have him taking contested midrange shots. When Johnson goes out, he'll be dealing with Paul Pierce. Despite the foul trouble, Pierce has been tremendous the last two games. He's made 13 of his last 17 field goals, including ten from three point range.

One area the Nets can exploit is the Rockets' propensity to commit turnovers. Houston leads the league in turnovers, coughing it up close to 17 times per 100 possessions. This plays right into the Nets' hands because they are the second best team in the league at forcing turnovers. They force teams into about 17 turnovers per 100 possessions a night, good for second highest in the league.

Even if Howard doesn't play, the Nets will be at a sever disadvantage on the glass. The Rockets are the third best team on the glass while the Nets are the second worst. Omer Asik is back to playing and has continued his success on the glass. Mason Plumlee, Andray Blatche and friends will have their hands full dealing with Asik, Terrence Jones, and Howard (if he suits up). Back in November, Dennis Velasco wondered why Jones wasn't getting that much playing time. The Rockets figured it out and now Jones is averaging 27.5 minutes a night. Why is Jones so important? Patrick Harrell of The Dream Shake told us:

After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Jones has truly put it all together in his sophomore season, combining his athleticism, shooting touch, and impressive handle to finally establish himself on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he's playing great help defense and continues to improve in his discipline, staying in better position that he had in the past.

He still has to improve his rebounding, but for a player playing his first significant minutes of his career, it's a wonderful development to see him playing so well.

Player to watch: James Harden

Unsurprisingly, Harden has been having a stellar season for the Rockets. The star lefty is averaging 25 points and almost six assists in 38 minutes a night. He's been one of the league's most efficient shooters since he entered the league, and this year has been no exception. His true shooting percentage of 61.7 is sixth best in the league, and that's strengthened by his constant trips to the free throw line. After finishing second in the league in total trips to the line last year, he's "only" sixth in FTAs this year. That can be explained by his decline in usage rate as having Howard around takes some of the load off of him.

Harden has gotten criticized throughout the season for his poor defense, but the Rockets are essentially the same on defense with or without him. With him on the court, Houston allows 102.3 points per 100 possessions. Without him, they allow 102.8 points per 100 possessions. Over at Red94, Michael Pina writes:

Defense matters, but truth be told, the positive impact a historically efficient high-volume scorer has should outweigh his negative defensive shortcomings. Harden rarely guards the opponent’s best player, and on some possessions his assignment doesn’t even touch the ball. We talk about how significant defense is—earlier in this article it was referred to as "50% of the entire game"—but chastising Harden before acknowledging the scoring and playmaking duties he carries on a nightly basis is unfair and misguided.

Shaun Livingston will be given the assignment to slow down Harden in this contest. Livingston has more than enough athleticism to keep up with Harden. Harden doesn't take as many shots in the restricted area as you'd think (only 47th overall), but he shoots an above average 63.4 percent inside that zone. He's only shooting 40 percent from the midrange area, and that's where the Nets will try to keep him. Livingston is a physical defender that has a few inches on Harden, and he'll use that length to try to keep Harden off the line. With Marcus Thornton dealing with that back injury of his, Alan Anderson will get those minutes and provide physical defense in an attempt to slow Harden down.

From the Vault

Hop back to 1993 and see Drazen Petrovic and the Nets snap Houston's eight game winning streak.


More reading: The Dream Shake

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