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Rockets, without James Harden, arrive in Brooklyn to face upbeat Nets

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets earned themselves a huge victory over the Pistons behind some characteristically clutch play from Spencer Dinwiddie, or Winwiddie if you please. They needed it, and it took overtime too get it done. Solid game all around though, the Pistons have not been pushovers this season. Well done.

Now the Rockets are coming to town to kick off the weekend. James Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are off to an abysmal 1-5 start (but have been off since Tuesday). So, they’ll be looking for a win in the worst way. But a pesky, fast, annoying team that plays hard and has something to prove like the Nets might very well be the absolute last thing the Rockets need right now. Could be a stealeable game. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN have this one at 7:30pm ET. Everyone probably has a million reasons they want the Nets to start winning more games, but right up near the top of the list should be “To give Ian Eagle a better product to announce for” because he is just a goddamn delight and a National Treasure. He’s fun all the time but when the Nets win a big one? Pure, core joy. Win some for Ian guys. He deserves it.

Injuries

DeMarre Carroll (ankle) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) are out, but Rodions Kurucs (ankle) is probable for the first time in five games. DeMarre was rocking a SHARP blue suit on the bench for the Pistons game though. Shouts to him, even though I’d rather see him rock a Nets jersey ... and soon.

James Harden (hamstring), James Ennis (hamstring), Nene (Right Calf), and Brandon Knight (knee) are all out for this one. That’s rough for Houston. (Like we care.)

The Game

The Rockets had a rough off-season, losing key role players like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute while only being able to add what have turned into underwhelming pieces in Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams. It hasn’t worked so far. It’s still early, sure, but the Rockets are going to need to figure something out soon. Might that be Jimmy Butler, who they reportedly offered four — count ‘em four — first round picks for? Maybe. But that whole situation is an absolute mess so who knows at this point. Plus, us Nets fans are well aware of the dangers of trading that many first rounders for anyone.

Obviously, James Harden and Chris Paul are the focal points of this team and even with Harden out, Paul can do damage pretty much when he wants, in some ways. Eric Gordon and Clint Capela are in that next tier of players and they’re dangerous as well. It’s a top heavy team for sure and their pure talent level is one of the highest in the league. Where they’ve lacked this season has been on defense and in their depth. They’re ranked 20th in the league in opponents points per game and it shouldn’t be too tough going at the notoriously lacking Green, Anthony and Marquese Chriss, to get some buckets.

It’s cool that Caris Levert is settling into a reliable role as an impact scorer. Other than the Knicks game, he’s just gone out and gotten his points this season. The Nets don’t have “That Guy” yet, so consistency from someone like Levert is really important. Jarrett Allen has also been more consistent than he might seem. There are moments where he looks a little overwhelmed and might just miss a rebounding or easy score opportunity but he’s putting up great numbers for a 20-year-old second year center. He’s been the Nets anchor on defense, leading all starters with a 109 Defensive Rating, and the dude is shooting 61% from the field. Capela is no joke, but expect Allen to put up another sneaky solid performance.

D’Angelo Russell needs to be more consistent. That is all.

Player To Watch

Eric Gordon is this team’s secret weapon. He can drive, he can handle the ball a little bit, he can shoot the lights out when he’s feeling it. He’s had a rough start to the season, as have plenty of these Rockets, but he can put up points in a hurry if Paul and Capela command the wealth of Brooklyn’s defensive attention, which they usually do. At one point, it seemed like Gordon’s career was cooked after a series of injuries but he’s really found himself a nice spot on the Rockets. Good for him. Let’s hope he holds off on that breakout game though.

From The Vault

When the Warriors came to town, I wrote that Klay Thompson was the player to watch and was due for a breakout game. Luckily, it didn’t happen in the Barclays Center, but rather a couple nights later in Chicago. 52 points in 27 minutes. FIFTY TWO POINTS IN TWENTY SEVEN MINUTES with a record FOURTEEN three pointers in TWENTY SEVEN MINUTES. Unreal. Enjoy. (And hope no one on the Rockets can replicate it!)

For a different perspective, head on over to Dream Shake, our sister site on SB Nation.