Mar 7, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) shoots the ball as Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) defends during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The streak ends: Three takeaways from Tuesday’s 118-96 loss to the Nets

The Rockets came up short in their bid for their first three-game winning streak of the season after Tuesday’s 118-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Jalen Green scored 25 points, but the Rockets could do nothing to contain Brooklyn’s backcourt with Mikal Bridges scoring a game-high 30 points, 18 in the second half, and Spencer Dinwiddie adding 23. The Rockets were outscored by 24 from behind the 3-point line.

No answers for Spencer Dinwiddie

The Nets might not have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving anymore, but on Tuesday, Dinwiddie did his best impression. He led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-16 from the field through three quarters, including 3-of-7 from behind the 3-point line, and did not play a single second in the fourth quarter. He beat the Rockets with the three-ball early, and then he started attacking the rim, taking advantage of switches by cooking the Rockets’ bigs, leaving Jabari Smith Jr. in the dust with crossovers on multiple occasions.

Dinwiddie was acquired by the Nets from Dallas in the Kyrie Irving trade, and he kept his new team in the game on Tuesday by scoring 13 points in the first quarter, keeping the Rockets from expanding on an early 11-point lead.

Mixed results defending from long distance

Tuesday’s game was going to be a challenge for the Rockets’ defense because it focuses on defending the paint, which leaves it susceptible to 3-pointers, while the Nets mostly eschew scoring from inside in favor of 3-pointers.

“We have to close out, we have to sprint to our close-outs,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said before the game. “They have so much shooting on the floor with these guys we have to be attentive to that shooting.”

The results were mixed. Brooklyn started the game by misfiring on their first five attempts from behind the arc and missed seven of their first eight, but the Nets then made 7-of-10 as they built a double-digit lead in the second quarter. They finished the game shooting 37.5% (15-of-40), with Joe Harris and Mikal Bridges draining four while Spencer Dinwiddie connected on three. The Rockets inability to defend at the point of attack hurt them the most.

“When you don’t corral the ball that forces you to help,” Silas said after the game. “Then once you’re in help and you’re in rotation against a team that has so much shooting, you’re gonna give up a ton of threes, and we did.”

Houston entered the game allowing opponents to shoot that exact percentage from three-point range, while shooting a league worst 32.7%, and it shot just 7-of-26 against the Nets.

Sengun fades after a quick start

Alperen Sengun made his first four shots and scored eight of the Rockets first 14 points of the game as they built an early eight-point lead in the game’s first five minutes. He finished with 10 points and five rebounds while playing all but 29 seconds of the first quarter, but scored just six points the rest of the night, converting on only 2-of-7 field goal attempts.

“They closed more to the paint in the second half,” Sengun said. “They did a good job, and we missed all our shots.”

The Rockets center entered the game averaging 4.6 points in the first quarter, but his scoring decreases each quarter that follows, and he becomes less efficient. Sengun is shooting 61% in the first half and 48.7% after halftime. Silas believes his production is decreasing as the game goes along because teams are adjusting their defense.

“Early in the game they were just playing them straight, and we were either getting it to him in pick a roll or getting to him in the post, and they weren’t really honoring him honoring him very much. Some of the turnovers that he had he could have just kind of laid (the ball) up, but he’s an unselfish guy and wants to make plays for his teammates, which is great.

“Then in the second half, they were much more attentive to his post ups. They double teamed him, and then in the pick and roll game they were really over to make it a lot harder for him.”

Next up

The Rockets will visit the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.

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