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Red-hot Rockets host Nets in James Harden homecoming

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

What a rush! The Brooklyn Nets got their week long, four game road trip started on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks and the Road Warriors stole one with a dramatic fourth quarter comeback on TNT. That’ll help a road trip get off to a good start. They’ve won six straight games on the road.

The opponent tonight will be the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are still near the bottom of the Western Conference, but that’s a bit deceptive. They’ve been playing wonderful ball as of late and beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night to push their winning streak to six games. They’ve been off for the past few days and will be ready to keep their streak going.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 8 PM.

Injuries

Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge are resting. Joe Harris is out as is Kyrie Irving. That’s it.

John Wall is out as he is not part of the team’s rotation or plans going forward. Jalen Green is dealing with a hamstring injury and is out. Kevin Porter Jr. is out with a left thigh contusion. Danuel House Jr. is out with a left ankle sprain.

The game

After a rough start, Stephen Silas has the team looking a lot better these days. Over at The Dream Shake, Lachard Binkley noted that and wrote:

Silas has also had to manage his entire backcourt being out for multiple games and integrating players who were on the Vipers to start the year. NBA head coaches aren’t known for being flexible and willing to change (do you remember Mike D’Antoni?), so Silas changing his entire rotation and starting a player who no NBA team wanted a year ago in Garrison Mathews says something about his willingness to adapt. The ability to keep the team together despite dropping 15 straight and not losing the locker room shows that Silas can stay cool under tremendous pressure.

When Coach Silas was hired, he thought he would be coaching players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden into the postseason and instead wound up coaching Anthony Lamb and Brodric Thomas into the lottery. No disrespect to the latter, but if you believe you are coaching two Hall of Famers, and you instead end up coaching 40 different lineups, you may be a little shell-shocked.

Sometimes you just gotta ride out the storm and hope that brighter days are on the horizon.

On yesterday’s ESPN Daily, Pablo Torre and Kirk Goldsberry discussed midrange shooting, Kevin Durant, and analytic trends in the NBA. It’s a great listen

Speaking of KD, his 3-point shot hasn’t been there as of late. He’s gone 3-of-16 from three point range over his past four games, but he’s doing everything else on the court so you can’t even stress it too much. Steve Nash mentioned that he’ll see about players’ availability tonight, and all signs point to Durant possibly getting the night off. KD loves to play and if y’all keep asking him about it, he’ll play 48 minutes just to shut us up. Gotta save that for deep in the playoffs!

Jae’Sean Tate has been Jae’Sean Great for the Rockets.

Nicolas Claxton got a workout last night. Clax played the final 17 minutes of the game and was marvelous as his energy and ability to switch onto Luka Doncic helped power the Nets to the win. Last night was a huge test for him and we’ll see if he’ll be on the court tonight on the second leg of the back-to-back. LaMarcus Aldridge will be starting things off and his ability to consistently knock down elbow jumpers gives the Nets some semblance of spacing as they try to regain their three point touch. He only played 23:13 last night so he’s a good bet to be a little more involved tonight. Managing minutes will be key for Nash and all the bigs (shouts to you, James Johnson) will look to put another good outing together.

We’ll be seeing Kenyon Martin Jr. tonight, and for all you Nets fans that remember his dad and how great he was, you’re officially old as hell!

The Rockets youth movement has helped them in the winning streak, and a lot of that is due to the play of Garrison Matthews and Armoni Brooks. They also have a steady veteran presence in Eric Gordon playing alongside them so they can learn and soak up game from a vet that has years of playoff experience. Even as your team rebuilds, it pays to have some vets that can guide the next generation on what they can do next.

In sad news, journalist and author, Greg Tate, passed away. I would definitely recommend this tribute to him by Hanif Abdurraquib. The critic as artist.

Player to watch: Christian Wood

Meet a building block of Houston’s future. C-Wood is a double-double machine as he’s top ten in double doubles (naturally) and rebounds. Wood has successfully expanded his game throughout the years and is a pretty reliable three point shooting big. As the franchise continues to figure out how to build the roster, he figures to be a huge part of things going forward. It was looking ugly for a minute, but things are looking up in H-Town.

Welcome back to the building block of Houston’s past. James Harden spent eight-plus mostly great seasons in Houston as he blossomed into a Hall of Famer and MVP. It ended poorly of course, but that’s water under the bridge and everyone’s moved on. Harden is still involved with the Houston community and culture so that’s a great thing. The former MVP put together a fantastic game last night and as he plays more aggressively, it opens up a world of possibility for the Nets and their offense. He went 3-6 from three point range, and for a Nets team that has been freezing from downtown for the past three weeks, having somebody alongside Patty Mills that can make a shot from deep is crucial. It’s a homecoming and Harden still has a lot to prove, so look for him to put on a show for his old friends.

From the Vault

The Beard back in Houston? Sounds like a party

More reading: The Dream Shake