Houston Rockets vs. Brooklyn Nets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Houston Rockets vs. Brooklyn Nets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are on a hot streak, having won four in a row, and they'll face a tremendous test when the Houston Rockets visit the Barclays Center on Friday night.

Houston has won three of five, but has still been streaky for most of the season.

However, do not count the Rockets out just yet. Not only did they defeat the Nets back on Jan. 26, but this is also their first time trying out their recently revamped roster.

On Wednesday night, with hours remaining until today's trade deadline, the team sent forward Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, while also acquiring rookie Thomas Robinson from the Sacramento Kings, according to ESPN.com. In that deal, Houston also sent Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich to Sacramento while also receiving Tyler Honeycutt and Francisco Garcia, plus a second-round pick.

This should make for an interesting game not only because of the talent matching up against one another, but also because Houston finally seems to have the right players for head coach Kevin McHale's run-and-gun game.

Brooklyn has employed a similar style under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, so fans should expect a close, high-scoring game.

It all depends on a couple of factors. Brooklyn must continue playing well at home, and Houston needs to use its new lineup to get over its road woes.

Put the two together, and you've got yourself an intriguing matchup.

 

Time: Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m. EST

TV: YES, CSN Houston

Records: Brooklyn Nets (33-22) vs. Houston Rockets (30-26)

Betting Line: Not available as of Thursday, Feb. 21, 9:18 a.m. EST

Injuries: Tornike Shengelia (concussion, out), via ESPN

 

Key Storyline: Can New-Look Rockets Sweep Season Series?

The Houston Rockets have a new look following their recent trades, and it could make a difference in the team's second game this season against the Brooklyn Nets. However, were changes really needed to begin with?

The Rockets faced the Nets at the Toyota Center on Jan. 26, and won 119-106. James Harden led the way with 29 points and seven assists, but that was not the top story of the game.

Not only did Houston shoot 49 percent from the field, but they also out-rebounded the Nets by an astonishing 50-31 margin. Omer Asik had 16 of those, and Reggie Evans led the Nets with just eight.

Needless to say—Brooklyn's interior effort needs to be stronger in Round 2 in order for the season series to be split. This means going after every rebound and taking advantage of Asik's inexperience on the NBA level. Boxing out him and anyone else must be first priority.

This can help push the team's winning streak to five, ever important in the increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.

 

Key Matchup: Omer Asik vs. Brook Lopez

USA TODAY Sports

In terms of rebounding, both Houston and Brooklyn are at or near the middle of the pack. The Rockets rank 10th in the category, while the Nets are 15th.

Regardless of that, the battle between Brook Lopez and Omer Asik is going to be the one that decides the game.

In his first full season as a starter, Asik is third in the league with 11.5 rebounds per game and also averaging 10.5 points. He has good size at 7'0", 255 pounds, and while he still has a lot to learn on the offensive end, he has still done a good job of being a force in the paint.

USA TODAY Sports

The same can be said about Nets center Brook Lopez, who made his first All-Star team this year. After missing all but five games last season due to injuries, the former Stanford Cardinal came into this season with a much-improved game on both sides of the court.

Lopez is averaging 18.8 points and 7.3 rebounds on the season, plus 2.2 blocks. Long considered to be a bit soft presence in the paint, he is finally putting up the numbers expected of someone 7'0", 265 pounds.

Unlike Asik, Lopez has a jump shot that he likes to utilize every so often. He has shot 51 percent from the field on the season and still stays in the paint a majority of the time, so he cannot really be faulted for using it.

Lopez must use his offensive versatility to best Asik...chart via nba.com

In a game against Houston's fast-paced offense, Lopez must not be afraid to balance his offense out. He must be a force on the inside on top of taking an open shot on the perimeter if the opportunity presents itself.

On the Rockets' end, Asik must not be afraid of going after every single rebound. Besting Lopez defensively is the key to a Houston victory, and Asik must turn in a repeat performance if that is to be.

 

X-Factor: Chandler Parsons

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Despite being a second-round pick in 2011, Parsons has turned into one of the Rockets' best young players. In his sophomore season, the former Florida Gator is averaging 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from long range.

Parsons has also upped his distribution skills as of late, posting five assists per game in February alone. At 6'9", 227 pounds, he's showing potential not only in the scoring department, but as a point forward.

Parsons' offensive prowess must be in full swing against Brooklyn...chart via nba.com

Speaking of Parsons' scoring, he needs to do plenty of that against Brooklyn. He'll have a tough matchup against a great pest in Gerald "Crash" Wallace, but has become so good at finding his own shot that he might not have a problem fighting past his opponent's defense.

Keep in mind that Parsons had 16 points and 11 assists in the Rockets' first game against Brooklyn this season, and he can make a shot from virtually anywhere on the floor. He can drive the lane, has a good mid-range game, and can be deadly from downtown if he has a hot hand.

He needs to be ready to score from multiple spots against the Nets and help the Rockets get past their 11-18 road record, and a big night from him could easily be the difference-maker.

 

Predicted Starting Lineups:

Houston

PG: Jeremy Lin

SG: James Harden

SF: Chandler Parsons

PF: Thomas Robinson

C: Omer Asik

 

Brooklyn

PG: Deron Williams

SG: Joe Johnson

SF: Gerald Wallace

PF: Reggie Evans

C: Brook Lopez

 

Prediction

This game is going to be close from start to finish, and the Rockets will win in an absolute nail-biter. Nothing against the Nets, but they're due for a loss after two highly emotional wins against the Milwaukee Bucks.

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As a result, despite strong performances from Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, Houston will sink the important baskets midway through the fourth quarter and cling to the lead until the final buzzer. Jeremy Lin will dish off key passes to an open Chandler Parsons, who will score in double figures while also racking up his fair share of assists.

James Harden will lead the way in scoring once again and also put on a strong defensive performance. In his first game with his new team, Thomas Robinson will show that his low production in Sacramento was a fluke.

The Rockets' up-tempo offense will be in full force, and all that the Barclays Center crowd will be able to do by the final buzzer is just watch stunned.

Houston Rockets 113, Brooklyn Nets 108

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