PREVIEW: Nets at Rockets- March 7

Mar 4, 2023; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets teammates Joshg Christopher (9) and Kevin Porter Jr. (3) celebrate during the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Meullion-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Nets at Rockets- March 7

The Rockets will look to win a third straight game for the first time all season when they host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night at Toyota Center. After sweeping a weekend home-and-home against the Spurs over the weekend, the Rockets are no longer owners of the NBA’s worst record. That honor belongs to the Detroit Pistons, who at 15-50, are a half-game back of the Rockets.

Eye on the Nets

Record: 36-28 (6th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 114.4 (11th)

Defensive rating (rank): 113.5 (18th)

The Nets arrive at Toyota Center winners of back-to-back games after losing 6-of-7. Since Cam Thomas scored 40 points in three straight games early last month, the Nets have been led in scoring in nine of the last 10 games by Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Johnson, or Mikal Bridges, the players acquired in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades. Bridges has seen his scoring average increase by nine points to 26.1 in the nine games he’s played with the Nets.

Matchup to watch: Rockets 3-point defense vs. Nets 3-point shooting

No team has scored fewer points in the paint over the last 10 games than the Nets, and in that span, they’ve taken the sixth most 3-pointers. This makes for an interesting matchup because while the Rockets have played lousy defense this season, they’ve focused on defending the paint, which has left them susceptible to the 3-point shot, which is a big reason why opponents are shooting 37.5% from long-distance against them, fourth worst in the league. Brooklyn is only shooting 34.8% from long distance since trading Durant and Irving, but teams shoot it well against the Rockets because they have been ineffective while closing out on 3-point shooters. The Rockets will once again try to wall off the paint on Tuesday night, but they will have to do a much better job of staying connected and rotating onto shooters in order to have a chance to win this game.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets have played all but one team through the first 64 games of the season, with that one team being the Nets. These two teams will be connected for a long time due to the James Harden trade, which allows the Rockets to control Brooklyn’s drafts through 2024. There is really no benefit to winning for the Rockets at this point of the season, but the Nets enter Tuesday’s game sixth in the Eastern Conference, two games up on Miami to stay out of the Play-in Tournament. The Rockets will have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets this summer, so any chance they get to drop them into the lottery will only be beneficial as it would give the Rockets a few extra chances at landing the number one pick of the 2023 draft, so this is one of the few games they’ll play over the final 18 of the season that mean something to the organization.

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