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Nets begin New Year's road trip in Houston

Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

As it turns out, the best basketball played at Barclays Center this week was by a bunch of high school kids. That should tell you everything you need to know about Thursday's game as the Brooklyn Nets got smoked by the New York Knicks. Eek.

The opponent tonight will be the Houston Rockets. For a team that's fourth in a tough Western Conference, it sure feels like this year has been disappointing. The team had their four game winning streak stopped with a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. Those national TV losses always manage to bring more drama.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8 PM.


Caris LeVert is working his way back, but he's still out. Kyrie Irving and Nicolas Claxton are out as well, with no timetable for their return. David Nwaba and Kevin Durant are done for the season of course. One telling sign of how far Irving has to go: LeVert is traveling with the team and has participated in contact drills with his teammates. Irving didn’t and hasn’t.

Clint Capela is out with a heel contusion.

Eric Gordon has been sidelined by a knee injury and will miss this one. He's expected to return on Sunday in New Orleans. Our old friend Gerald Green is out indefinitely after undergoing foot surgery in October. Thabo Sefolosha didn't play on Wednesday and his status for this one is unknown.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game in November.

This is the first night of a back-to-back for Houston. They're in New Orleans to face the Pelicans tomorrow night.

Even without Irving for this one, the point guard matchup should be a fun one. Russell Westbrook hasn't been bad for Houston, but there will always be questions about whether he's a good fit next to James Harden, whether he can truly fit within Mike D'Antoni's three point bonanza, etc. Russ is still solid so

Spencer Dinwiddie will be looking to bounce back from a substandard game on Thursday. Although he scored 25 points, he was 5-15 from the field and turned it over five times. The Nets offense disappears when he goes to the bench, so it's going to be a welcome relief for Kenny Atkinson and Nets when the reinforcements get back.

This one will be fast and there will plenty of threes flowing. Both squads are top ten in both pace and threes attempted this season. Surprisingly, both teams are in the bottom third in terms in efficiency. This one might not be the prettiest game we've ever seen.

The Nets perimeter players will have to get out of their collective slump if the Nets stand a chance. Over the last four games, Wilson Chandler is shooting six percent from three; Taurean Prince 16 percent and Garrett Temple 28 percent.

Player to watch: James Harden

Style matters more than we like to admit. Objectively speaking, Harden is one of the best offensive players we've ever seen. He can score from anywhere on the court, has above average handles, can finish over anyone, and always finds a way to get his teammates quality shot opportunities. However, if you turn on a (non-Houston) broadcast or follow discussions about him online, you'll hear an endless barrage of complaints about how he's turned the game into a free throw contest.

This year, Harden has continued to excel, but things are a bit more difficult. Teams are throwing way more double teams at him, and it's frustrated him some. It hasn't slowed him down too much, but we'll see how things shake out come playoff time.

It would help the cause if Garrett Temple knocked down a shot or two. Temple has been fairly cold recently and for a team that needs everybody contributing in order to win, they're going to need him hitting a couple shots here and there. If he and the other Nets can keep Harden under 40, they'll have a great chance to get the season sweep.

From the Vault

Since we're wrapping up 2019, it's only right we end the year with Houston's MVP.

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