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Nets play host to the Rockets

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

We know the deal by now. The Nets hang close for a while against a good team before inevitably falling apart in the second half. They played the Toronto Raptors close for three quarters before the Raps opened up a can of whoop ass and scored 42 fourth quarter points in route to an easy 132-113 win. The losing streak is up to nine and they've only won one road game this entire season.

Coming into town will be the Houston Rockets. After a disastrous 2015-2016 season, they’ve bounced back in a major way and are on track to have home court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. They played Memphis on Friday, but fell short by points, losing __.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WCBS 880 AM on radio. Tip off after six PM.


No Jeremy Lin for Brooklyn on Jeremy Lin Bobblehead night, aka Taiwan Culture Night. Isaiah Whitehead didn't play on Friday. He is listed as probable.

Clint Capela suffered a broken fibula in mid December and has been out of action since.

The game

Houston won the first game last month.

Funny what a year can do to your reputation. Last year, practically everyone (myself included) despised the Rockets. However, under Mike D’Antoni, they’ve been incredibly fun to watch and have been much better than expected on defense. In a great piece at HoopsHype, Mika Honkasolo made this observation:

The Rockets’ path to success was always going to be an incredible offense with a defense that wasn’t terrible, but their recent performance has been much better than anyone could have anticipated.

One built-in advantage with a great offense is that the Rockets get more opportunities to defend in half court. Overall, the defense seems to be built on much better principles than last season when no one had any idea what might happen on a given possession. They know they won’t be able to defend the rim (opponents are shooting 66.4 percent against them at the basket), but they’ve done a nice job limiting attempts and rank in the top half denying looks at the basket.

Although Houston is currently 19th in defensive efficiency, it's better than a lot of people expected so I wouldn't stress it.

Leading the charge for Houston is MVP contender James Harden. Harden and D'Antoni have been a match made in heaven and Harden is having the best season of his career. He's still an incredible scorer that can burn your defense in a variety of ways, but with the ball in his hands more, his playmaking skills have really shined through. He leads the league in assists and is second in triple doubles (Russell Westbrook is second in assists and first in triple doubles). If there's any negative to Harden's game this season, it's that his turnover rate has jumped a ton. It could be better, but the Rockets will live with it. The Nets have brought Caris Levert on slowly and he's done well in his role. He should get some time to match up against Harden along with Bojan Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis Jefferson.

We're going to see a ton of threes and shots at the rim. Both clubs are top five in three pointers attempted (it should be noted Houston is much more efficient from deep than Brooklyn) and bottom five in field goal percentage on shots allowed inside of six feet. That last part should bode well for Brook Lopez. With Capela out, Houston will rely primarily on Montrezl Harrell and Nene at Center. Brook only took three shots from deep last game, and with Houston thin up front, the strategy should be to pound the ball inside to the big man repeatedly.

Player to watch: Ryan Anderson

It’s always nice to see an old friend doing well. After four injury filled seasons in New Orleans (and experiencing a traumatic loss), the former Net signed a four year, $80 million contract with Houston in the summer. In Houston's three point heavy attack, Anderson has fit in well. 51 percent of his shot attempts are of the catch and shoot variety, and he's shooting 41 percent from deep on those types of shots. Anderson has struggled from the field over the past four games, but he's due to turn it around and tonight would be a good starting point.

Trevor Booker will be assigned to Ryno. The Nets have been awful rebounding the ball, but Booker has done his part on the glass. He'll be further away from the rim as Anderson will be camped out behind the three point line for much of the night. The other Nets will have to pick up the slack for Booker in that department. Houston is ninth in the NBA in offensive rebounding, and any second chance opportunities will ruin the Nets' chances of ending their losing streak.

From the Vault

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it’s a good time to learn about his work in Chicago in 1966. I think we sometimes limit ourselves to just the "I Have a Dream" speech when discussing King and that's a mistake. His contributions go far beyond that and his work afterwards was just as important. The issues he fought for such as fair housing, equal access to education, and police brutality are just as important to our society today as they were then, and by looking at where King went right and wrong, it can serve as a guide to what's happening in 2017. For my part, I'm going to try to read more about his time in Chicago so I can get a greater grasp on his life.

More reading: The Dream Shake