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Nets face banged up Rockets

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"...and all points between, they know about your man..."
"...and all points between, they know about your man..."
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Three is not the magic number. The Nets went to New Orleans in search of their third consecutive against a Pelicans team that was missing Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. Brooklyn couldn't take advantage and lost 102-96. They're currently tied with the Charlotte Hornets for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. This is night one of a back to back. They close out the road trip Saturday night in Dallas.

Awaiting the Nets will be the Houston Rockets. Quietly, they've been one of the better teams in the league this season and find themselves in third place in the Western Conference standings. They've won their last three games, including Wednesday's contest against the Clippers. After this game, they'll play their next three games against title contenders. They host the Cavaliers on Sunday (on ABC), travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Tuesday, and come home to play Southwest Division leading on Wednesday night (on ESPN).

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the television audience. The New Jersey Devils will be on WFAN so the Nets will be hanging out on WCBS 880 AM. Tip off is set for a bit after 8:00 PM eastern time.

Injuries

Bojan Bogdanovic is still dealing with a bad ankle and his status is up in the air.

The Rockets are a bit crowded in this department. Patrick Beverley and Kostas Papanikolaou missed Wednesday's game and their statuses are up in the air for this game. James Harden sprained his ankle on Wednesday and he's questionable tonight. Dwight Howard is scheduled to be back soon, but won't be playing tonight.

The game

What's life like for these clubs? Let's find out:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Houston

Record

23-32 39-18

Pace

94.42 99.16

Offensive Efficiency

100.4 103.5

Defensive Efficiency

100.3 99.7

Turnover Rate

14.9 17

Assist Rate

16.3 16.3

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.4 28

Rebounding Rate

48.8 50.4

Free Throw Rate

26.8 29.8

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.7 50.8

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50 48.3

The Rockets won the first meeting at the Barclays Center in January.

The Nets have gone away from pairing Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee. It didn't work and Hollins makes sure they aren't on the court at the same time. He might need to do that with Jarrett Jack and Deron Williams. They don't play well when they're on the court together, and are better off when they're at the point running the offense instead of playing off of each other. They'll benefit from Beverley's poor health. Bev is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and would have pestered Williams throughout the game. Ex Net Jason Terry will see a lot of time and the Nets guards should look to attack early and often.

Harden has struggled in his past five games (two of them against the Clips, a team he has struggled against throughout his career), but he's been having an MVP caliber season. He leads the league in scoring with 27.2 points a night and is shooting a more than respectable 38.5 percent from three point range. More importantly, he leads the league in free throw makes and attempts. He's gotten mocked for his terrible defense, but the team hasn't lost a step when he's on the court even as he's second in the league in minutes. Assuming he's limited by the ankle sprain or sits out altogether, Corey Brewer will take on more responsibility. Brewer came over from Minnesota back in December and has fit well with the fast paced Rockets. Markel Brown has played well his first two starts, and will face his toughest challenge of the season defending Harden.

Without Howard, the Rockets have made due with Donatas Motiejunas at center. Motiejunas can rebound well and stretch the floor from three point range. H-Town hasn't gotten much love from the pundits, but the team keeps on trucking without Dwight. In the meantime, Motiejunas will be dealing with Lopez and Plumlee. Plumlee only saw 13 minutes in NOLA and was pretty ineffective. The Nets have been doing a better job of getting Lopez the ball closer to the basket ever since he moved to the bench. That should continue here with Houston a bit thin at center.

Player to watch: Trevor Ariza

The second act is going better than the first. Ariza had a career year with the Wizards last season and rejoined the Rockets in the summer. With Houston's emphasis on three pointing, Ariza has fit in naturally. Although he's shooting 33.4 percent overall from deep, he's at a more than respectable 41.8 percent from the left corner.

Ariza will see a lot of Joe Johnson. Johnson has been playing well in February after a disastrous January. He's shot 45 percent and above in all but two games this month and has regained his stroke from downtown. Johnson can post up, but doesn't do much of it these days. Ariza can guard Johnson without the double team and that will make things a bit easier for Houston's defense.

From the Vault

I think we sometimes forget how good Tracy McGrady was. Head on back to 2005 and refresh your memory.

More reading: The Dream Shake