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Nets, finally whole, confront Houston

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Houston Rockets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

What did you expect? It’s the Spurs ... and to make matters worse, Gregg Popovich had just reamed out his team for sloppy effort.

So the Nets went down, 130-101, for their 16th loss against six wins. There was little to recommend the game, other than the debut of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert’s first points.

As Sean Kilpatrick said post-game, the Nets need to move on. And so they will, traveling Sunday from San Antonio to the Houston and the Rockets. James Harden’s team —and it is James Harden’s team now— have won six straight, including wins over the Warriors, Celtics and Thunder. They are on a roll.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8:00 ET.

Injuries

Hooray. Jeremy Lin will play. Lin started practicing on Friday after missing more than five weeks with a strained hamstring but announced Monday he’s met all the Performance Team’s measurements.

Justin Hamilton is “questionable” suffering from migraines. If Lin and Hamilton are available, it would mark the first time that all 15 players on the Nets roster are healthy.

The Rockets are good, but they await word on Donatas Motiejunas’ physical, the last step before he can step on the court. He won't play vs. the Nets.

The game

This one is going to be tough, to win, to even predict. The Nets will be trying to re-integrate Lin back into their game plan, trying to integrate Caris LeVert into the rotation, trying to integrate Spencer Dinwiddie into the roster.

The Nets, of course, are better with Lin on the court. They were 2-3 when he went down, 4-13 without him. Before he went down, he was averaging 15 points and 6.2 assists. His three point shooting average was only 33 percent, but the addition of Lin and LeVert should help the Nets outside-in offense.

The Rockets are hot, hot, hot. Six straight wins either against quality teams or on the back end of a back-to-back. Take a look at the data from those wins...

• Houston is outscoring opponents by an average of 14.7 points (+3.0 ppg first 18 games of the season).

• The Rockets are also outshooting opponents 47.1% to 41.8% (46.5% to 46.5% first 18 games of the season).

• Opponents are averaging 9.2 three-points made on 29.3% shooting (9.9 on 38.2% shooting the first 18 games of the season).

• The Rockets are averaging 10.5 steals and forcing 16.5 turnovers per game (7.0 and forcing 13.8 first 18 games of the season).

• Houston is averaging 26.5 free throw attempts to 22.8 for opponents (21.7 to 22.8 first 18 games of the season).

As for the Nets, here are relevant numbers going into the Rockets game: Brooklyn leads the NBA in pace at 101.6 possessions per 48 minutes and ranks 29th in defensive rating at 112.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. Can’t have that against a deep and athletic team.

Player to watch:

James Harden is averaging 25.0 points, 10.5 assists, 8.8 rebounds and 2.33 steals in the Rockets’ six straight wins. Those are impressive numbers, but his scoring and passing numbers are better for the season. He’s averaging 27.8 points, 11.6 assists, 7.6 assists and 1.5 steals.

If you’re looking for a negative, other than his defense, we guess you could note that none of his shooting numbers this season are as good as his career numbers

Harden is a top candidate for MVP, as he was last year. He is about as good a guard as the NBA has to offer. outside the Bay Area Well, other than his defense. To be fair, it is improved.

it will be interesting to see how former teammates Lin and Harden match up, assuming Lin plays. And let’s face it, that’s pretty much all that matters Monday: will Lin play?

From the Vault

In 2012, Jeremy Lin and James Harden sat down with Gary Chow on ESPN. The segment was called “Know Your Teammate.” Chow asked the two true-or-false questions about the other to see just how much they knew about the guy they’d be playing next to.

Our favorite Q. and A. starts at 1:20.

More reading at The Dream Shake.