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Nets begin last week of regular season vs. Rockets

Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets

You can’t win when only one person shows up to work. On a day where the Philadelphia 76ers throttled the Charlotte Hornets by 30 points, the Brooklyn Nets had a great chance to help themselves and strengthen their grip on the eighth seed. Standing in the way was the Atlanta Hawks. The Nets played one of their worst games of the season and took a gut punch of a loss on Saturday night. The L knocked them to tenth place in the Eastern Conference and trapped them in the play-in games. Clock’s ticking.

The opponent tonight will be the Houston Rockets. Stephen Silas has his guys playing hard and things are starting to look up for them. They played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday evening, but lost by seven points.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m.

Injuries

Joe Harris and Ben Simmons are out. Goran Dragic is stuck in Atlanta as he’s dealing with COVID. He’s out. Seth Curry sat out Saturday’s game with left ankle soreness. We’ll see if he’s back on the court tonight, but Steve Nash said there have been “conversations” about resting him the last four games, giving him a week of rest before the play-in. Bruce Brown sat out Saturday’s game with a non-COVID illness, aka the flu. He’s listed as probable. James Johnson is questionable with a non COVID illness.

Eric Gordon is out with right hamstring soreness. Dennis Schroder is out with left shoulder soreness. Christian Wood is out with left hamstring tightness. John Wall never suited up for the Rockets this season.

The game

Houston took the first game back in December.

The 3-point line will be critical tonight. Since the All Star break, the Nets are tops in three point efficiency as they’ve knocked down 39 percent of their shots from deep. The Rockets have done a great job of defending the three in recent weeks and have the third best opponent’s 3-point percentage since the break. The Nets haven’t done a good job defending the line (38.5 percent, fourth highest in the NBA) since the break, and they’re going to need to ensure everyone is communicating on defense and making timely rotations.

Brooklyn is a good bet to win the rebounding battle. The Rox are 29th in rebounding after the All-Star break and if the Nets can complete possessions and set the tempo to where they like it, they’ll have a great chance to jump out to a big lead. Combine that with the Rockets turning the ball over a bunch (29th in turnover rate) as young teams tend to do, and Brooklyn will have plenty of opportunities to cash in. They still have to make sure they are careful with the ball and in sync on both sides of the ball. They have no margin for error and every mistake gets magnified during this time of the year.

When you’re young, you sometimes do things you may regret later. In a game a few weeks ago against the Memphis Grizzlies, Kevin Porter, Jr. got frustrated with the referees and let it take him out of his game. Silas mentioned it’s a teaching moment, and for a

Shouts to Aliyah Boston and the University of South Carolina. Our pals at Bonnet Gang recapped the national championship game here

The Nets can’t afford to waste Kevin Durant masterpieces. KD went for a career high 55 points as he was the only Net that showed up on Saturday. Along the way, he pulled this one out of his bag:

Hey man. Hey. For tonight, the Nets will look to keep feeding the big guy and hope that somebody else can chip in. We know Durant is a lock for 25+ points and solid defense, so it’s up to the rest of the guys to meet the moment and play well. When you have a player like Durant at the peak of his powers, you HAVE to support him. Anything less would be a tragedy.

Yesterday, Durant had his media session and said:

No excuses. No plea copping. No bullshit. Just hoop.

Player to watch: Jalen Green

It’s always a beautiful thing when you see a kid start to put it all together in real time. Since the All Star break, Green has gotten his game into gear and looks like one of the brightest young stars in the NBA going forward. Over at The Dream Shake, James Piercey wrote about Green and what he needs to do to become one of the best guards in basketball:

In order to do so, he’ll have to continue to evolve as a playmaker and a defender. Green’s shown both a willingness and ability to set up teammates when defenses pressure him. Leaning a little harder into that skill as his usage increases could pay dividends towards making him one of the league’s premier offensive weapons.

Defensively, Green has displayed strong instincts when it comes to creating plays from gambling. If he can add some muscle to his presently whispy frame, it may help him stay in front of his man (as well as convert more posterizing dunks).

If he can make those improvements, there’s nothing stopping Green from assuming the mantle of the best off-guard in the NBA.

As the Rockets move into their new era, Green’s development will be central to what the Rockets hope to rebuild. The team has some solid young players on the team, a General Manager who has done boss work in the Draft, and a fair share of draft picks coming their way soon. With Green leading the way, the future is bright. Green also made some history on Sunday:

Groovy.

After Saturday’s game, Steve Nash had this to say:

This is true and normally we give people grace on these kind of things, but no one’s trying to hear that right now. The Nets, and Kyrie Irving in particular, have no margin for error and are going to need a lot more from their star if they want to make it to the actual playoffs. To start, he’s going to need to get to the cup a bit more. He’s only taken 11 shots inside of the restricted area the past five games. He hasn’t had it in the midrange area, which is a surprise considering just how masterful he is with his jumpshot. When all else fails, attack the basket and put pressure on the defense that way.

One final note: Does Houston want to win this week? They are tied with the Magic in the tanking sweepstakes with identical records of 20-59. The No. 1 overall pick in the June 23 NBA Draft is at stake.

From the Vault

This year’s inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame were announced during the Final Four weekend, with Manu Ginobili being the main headliner. Ginobili had a stellar career with the San Antonio Spurs and as a member of the Golden Generation for the Argentinian Men’s National Basketball Team. Let’s revisit one of his best playoff moments in a career full of them

More reading: The Dream Shake