PREVIEW: Rockets at Nets- March 29

Mar 7, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) and forward Joe Harris (12) react after a play during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Nets- March 29

The Rockets will try to avoid their seventh straight loss when they close out their five-game road trip against the Brooklyn Nets. After losing the first game of the trip by five in Memphis, the Rockets have lost the last three by an average of more than 25 points, including Monday’s 22-point loss to the Knicks.

Eye on the Nets

Record: 40-35 (6th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 114.5 (12th)

Defensive rating (rank): 113.7 (16th)

The Nets enter Wednesday’s game having lost 6-of-7 and are clinging to sixth place in the East by just a half-game over Miami, though the Nets do own the tiebreaker after winning all three regular-season meetings. The Nets have become much more reliant on 3-point shooting since trading Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and they’ve struggled to hit from downtown during this stretch, converting on just 33.1% of their attempts from long distance. Brooklyn will close the season by playing 6-of-7 games at home, with its only road game coming against the league-worst Detroit Pistons.

Matchup to watch: Rockets perimeter defenders vs. Mikal Bridges

Bridges scored 30 against the Rockets three weeks ago at Toyota Center, and he’s averaging close to 27 points per game since the Nets acquired him from Phoenix in the Kevin Durant trade, almost a 10-point increase from his output with the Suns. The 26-year-old has been the Nets’ scoring leader in 11 of the last 13 games, and he’s doing so in an efficient manner, shooting better than 48% from the field and 39% from long distance while attempting more than seven free throws per game. Bridges saw a lot of different bodies during that first meeting, led by Kevin Porter Jr., who held the former Villanova star to three points when he was the closest defender, but Bridges did damage when he was defended by Tari Eason or when Alperen Sengun switched on to him.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets can really damage the Nets’ playoff hopes if they can score an upset win on Wednesday, which could be very beneficial for them moving forward. The Rockets have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in this draft, but they obviously wouldn’t do that with how the standings look now. That could change if the Nets miss the playoffs. The chances would be incredibly remote, but Brooklyn missing the playoffs would help the Rockets’ lottery odds. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, the Rockets will have a 14% chance of landing the top pick of the 2023 draft, but that number would increase to 14.5% if the Nets are in the lottery, and Brooklyn would have a 2.4% chance of getting into the top 4. Those odds are terrible, but crazier things have happened, and there is a 48.1% chance the Rockets fall out of the top four.

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