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Game Day: Rockets Vs. Nets

Analysis and observations from the Rockets' 114-95 win over Brooklyn

HOUSTON - Analysis and observations from before, during and after Houston’s Friday night matchup with the Brooklyn Nets:

POST-GAME

This was not fair.

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Tonight’s recap could stop there and you’d know all you need to know about the Rockets’ 114-95 destruction of the increasingly woebegone Brooklyn Nets. Some games appear to be mismatches on paper heading into the matchup, only for them to turn into barnburners when the players hit the floor. This was the exact opposite of that.

Tonight, Houston looked like one of the five best teams in basketball – which their point differential suggests they are, and which they may very well actually be – and Brooklyn looked like one of the NBA’s five worst – which, so long as several of their best players remain sidelined with injuries, they probably are as well. There’s any number of stats with which I could regale you to hammer those points home, but really, doesn’t the final score say it all?

Pick a Rocket, any Rocket, and odds are he looked like a world-beater this evening. Chandler Parsons entered tonight’s contest shooting better than 60 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc over the course of the last seven games, and he managed to leave those scorching numbers in the dust during a sharpshooting show that saw him knock down all seven of his shots, six of which came from downtown. But he was hardly alone in that regard – Houston hit 19 of its 32 3-pointers on the evening while setting a new season-high in that category.

In fact, the only real in-game drama occurred during the contest’s opening minute when the Nets had three opportunities to hit the opening bucket of the night and put an end to Houston’s four-game streak of never trailing at Toyota Center. Brooklyn couldn’t convert any of those opportunities. Terrence Jones finally put his team on the board at the 10:53 mark. And the Rockets never looked back.

From that point on it was one bodacious Black Friday basketball party (assuming you’re a Rockets fan, of course). James Harden returned and showed off his playmaking finery with a few exquisite feeds. The bench, buttressed by Brooks, Garcia, Asik and Casspi, remained boffo. Dwight Howard played air guitar. And the Nets, well, they made their beat writers yawn a lot.

All told, it was a hoops smackdown of the highest order. It was a rip-roaring, free-flowing, stress-free romp. In other words: it was the exact opposite of what the Rockets figure to face tomorrow night in San Antonio. And really, if there could be one complaint from a Rockets’ perspective about how things went down this evening, that would be it: outside of helping Houston’s players work up a sweat, the Nets did next to nothing to get them ready for the Borg-esque machine that doubles as Spurs basketball. Oh well. The Rockets won, they avoided injury and not a single player had to play more than 29 minutes. I’m guessing you won’t hear too many complaints in the Houston post-game dressing room.

The Rockets will hit the Alamo City having won seven of their past eight games. They’re playing their best, most unselfish basketball of the season. They’ve grown leaps and bounds over the course of the season’s opening month. Good thing, too, because no team tests its opposition’s growth quite like the Spurs do. Tomorrow’s game ought to be a blast. Just don’t expect it to resemble anything like the 48-minute party that played out on the Toyota Center floor tonight.

NOTES AND QUOTES

QUOTES

HOUSTON ROCKETS COACH KEVIN McHALE

(On team's play) “Again, we had another night where we made 3's. We had 31 assists off of 39 baskets so the ball moved well. We had a nice game by a lot of different guys.”

(On confidence of team shooting 3's) “I think overall, we should be a good 3-point shooting team. We get a lot of them. We shoot a lot of them in practice. We shoot a lot of them in the game. If you get ball movement that we want and body movement that we want, we should be able to get open 3's. We are one of the teams that looks for it and we shoot a lot of them.”

(On James Harden's play in minutes after returning from a foot injury) “I was happy to have him at 25 minutes. Our goal was under 30 (minutes). Our big thing is to see how he feels tomorrow. Hopefully, that foot feels as good tomorrow as it did today. We'll let him just try to work his way back and get a little longer minutes. Hopefully, this is behind him now. I think, had Jeremy (Lin) not gotten hurt, I think James may have wanted to given it one more day but he said he thought he could go tonight. He had 7 assists. He moved the ball well. He had 1 turnover. I thought he looked good.”

(On Dwight Howard's offensive leadership) “I think he made some beautiful passes to guys. He's got the ball low. He's finishing around the basket. We missed him a few times but he understands that we're going to get better at that. He's a very willing passer. He gets the ball in the post...if you cut for him, he'll find you. Like I said, he's a very willing passer.”

PATRICK BEVERLEY

(On the Rockets teamwork) “It's always a positive when we are winning. The locker room is much better and the sun is shining a little bit harder.”

(On the climate of the locker room and how it translates to the court) “We've always had a good locker room, even when we were losing a couple of games. Especially, when you have people like Dwight here. We work extremely hard away from where the cameras are. Everybody on this team works extremely hard. That's why when people's numbers are called everyone is ready.  D-Mo, Aaron Brooks, T-Jones, you know people like that.”

DWIGHT HOWARD

(On the Rockets comfort level the last few games) “Well, you know we are doing a great job of playing together, sharing the ball, finding the open man, and taking good shots. We hadn't taken any bad shots the last couple of games. We have to keep that up. Our defense has been pretty strong. We have to get better on a couple of things on the defensive end but the biggest thing for us is we need to start games well and finish well. The last couple of games we have been very consistent with doing that. We just have to keep it up when we start playing these really good teams. We want to make sure we play the same way.”

(On Dwight's comfort level with the ball in his hand) “It's just the whole package. Everybody is learning how to still play together. We are 12-5 now. Again, we want to be a lot better team come February than we are now. The more time we have together the better we will get and the better we will be as individuals. For myself and the rest of these guys, the main thing we are focused on is our defense. Communication on defense is key. We're getting better at that and we are holding each other accountable. We are doing a better job of holding each other accountable on that.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(On his shooting streak) “Yeah, after that last one (shot), I felt like everything I threw up was going to go in. It was just one of those feelings. My teammates did a great job of finding me. It was good that we got off to a good start like that. A team with that much talent, you don't want to leave them hanging around. You don't want to give them any hope. You want to get off to a good start and shut the door quick and that's what we did.”

(On the Rockets effectiveness shooting from the outside) “I think it is just everyone getting comfortable. Everyone getting more familiar with each other. I started off the season shooting really poorly. It is all about staying confident and continuing to put in the work in the gym. We are all professionals. We are all going to keep shooting and keep working on it.”

FRANCISCO GARCIA

(On the win) “We are playing great right now. We are playing great with each other and we are passing the ball great. We are playing good defense at the beginning of the game. We are trying to find ourselves. We are trying to improve in every area. We just need to keep doing that.”

(On the Rockets improved 3-point shooting the last few games) “We are moving the ball so everybody is involved in the offense. We are doing a good job of finding the open man.”

BROOKLYN NETS COACH JASON KIDD

(On where things went wrong) “Fatigue. We asked guys to play a lot of minutes, we’ve been short handed in playing five in seven (days). Starting the game tonight, we didn’t shoot the ball extremely well, nor did we close out to the three and that effort put us behind the eight ball.”

(On the second half starters) “I had to go with the guys that were playing hard and those were the guys and they played for the whole second half.”

(On his starters) “That’s a problem. We have to figure out what the problem is with that starting group. Fatigue is the only thing I can think of. It’s an 82 game season and we’re getting some healthy bodies back slowly and we just have to stay together. No one quit. They were just fatigued and when you’re not making shots and you see on the other end when they’re making three’s, that takes some steam from you and that’s what I saw happening and I went with the group that had energy and I stuck with that group as long as I could. I announced who was starting at halftime and I said we’ll see how it goes from there.”

(On the Rockets) “They’re playing great. The one thing they do or the three things they do is try to get layups, shoot free throws, and shoot threes and out of the 114 they did that with 107 of their points. Those were the three things we talked about, so we have to address that. They’re playing well.”

BROOK LOPEZ

(On returning to action from his injury) “I feel great. It was good to be out there. I felt great. The most important thing I feel is that we didn’t get the win tonight. At times like this, we have to stick together. We’re in this together and the only was we’re going to get out of this is together.”

(On what’s happening in the first halves of the last few games) “We let them do what they do best. The last three teams have great three point shooting teams and we gave them easy looks from that distance. You come out expecting to get a win and it’s not the case, but it was good for personally to be out with the guys and be with them again.”

JOE JOHNSON

(On what he thought when coach told him he wasn’t starting the second half) “It’s his decision. He’s the coach and I just play. I don’t know the problem but it’s frustrating and I can’t pin point just one thing. It’s hard to figure out what’s happening from the start, but something is not right. I’m not fatigued, not at all. I can’t speak for everybody, but if coach felt that way. I can’t speak for everybody if they were tired or didn’t have energy.”

(On the Rockets) “They were basically free flowing on the offense. Guys knew where their shots were coming from. They shot the ball pretty well from three. They are definitely a tough team.”

NOTES

Houston registered another sellout crowd of 18,138, marking a 10th straight sellout at Toyota Center.

The Rockets took a 114-95 victory over Brooklyn tonight, running Houston’s winning streak over the Nets to a franchise-best 14 games (12/27/06-11/29/13). It sets Houston’s longest all-time winning streak against any single opponent, surpassing 13 in a row over the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise (1/3/07-12/19/09) and 13 against the Minnesota Timberwolves (2/5/07-1/24/11).

Houston has now won six straight home games. Over this streak, the Rockets have gone five consecutive home games without giving up the lead (11/16/13-11/27/13). Houston has not trailed at Toyota Center since the 3:59 mark (-1, 87-88) of the first OT vs. Toronto (11/11/13).

The Rockets assisted on 31 of their 39 field goals made tonight. Houston has now eclipsed the 30-assist mark twice this season (34 on 11/13/13 at Philadelphia).

Houston set its season high in 3-pointers made by going 19-of-32 (.594) from downtown tonight. The Rockets set their previous high with 17 treys (.548, 17-31 3FG) vs. Minnesota (11/23/13).

The Rockets registered another 66 first-half points (22-40 FG, 11-18 3FG, 11-11 FT) tonight, including a 33-point first quarter. Houston has now netted 30-plus points over the opening 12 minutes of play in six of its last nine games, including a pair of 40-point first quarters.

The Houston bench, which outscored the Hawks reserves by a 67-32 (+35) margin vs. Atlanta (11/27/13), accounted for another 56 points (.631, 12-19 3FG) and 17 assists tonight.

The Rockets, who now stand at 11-5 this month, have recorded their most wins in Nov. since a 15-1 mark back in 1996-97.

Chandler Parsons had a game-high 21 points (7-7 FG) off a career-best 6-for-6 night from beyond the arc. Parsons tonight tied for the second most treys made without a miss in Rockets history (Aaron Brooks 7-7 3FG on 3/17/10 vs. Memphis and Shane Battier 6-6 3FG on 2/17/10 at Milwaukee).

Terrence Jones notched 11 points (4-8 FG), seven rebounds and three blocks tonight. He has now reached double-figuring scoring in a career-high seven consecutive games (11/16/13-11/29/13). Jones has also led the Rockets in first-quarter scoring in four of last six games and has at least six points in the first quarter in five of last six outings.

James Harden returned to the lineup tonight after missing the last three games (11/23/13-11/27/13) with a sore left foot. Harden finished with nine points (7-7 FT) and seven assists tonight.

Mirza Teletovic set career highs with 18 points (6-14 FG, 3-6 3FG), a game-high 13 rebounds and two steals tonight. His previous bests were 17 points vs. the L.A. Lakers (11/27/13) and eight boards vs. Washington (3/8/13).

Tyshawn Taylor also recorded career best with 16 points (6-17 FG) and a game-high 12 assists tonight.

Brook Lopez, who notched 21 points (6-13 FG, 9-10 FT), seven rebounds and five blocks last season at Houston (1/26/13), had just 16 points (5-9 FG), one rebound and two blocks tonight.

PREVIEW

The Basics:

Brooklyn Nets (4-11) at Houston Rockets (11-5)  

Point Differential:

Brooklyn: -6.8 (NBA rank: 27th)

Houston: +6.0 (NBA rank: 4th)

Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions):

Brooklyn: 99.3 (22nd)

Houston: 108.9 (2nd)

Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions):

Brooklyn: 106.1 (30th)

Houston: 101.0 (11th)

Pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes):

Brooklyn: 95.19 (22nd)

Houston: 99.13 (5th)

Four Factors:

Shooting – Effective field goal percentage (eFG% is a field goal percentage that’s adjusted for made 3-pointers being 1.5 times more valuable than a 2-point shot):

Brooklyn: 47.4% (21st)

Houston: 55.2% (2nd)

Turnovers – Turnover ratio (the number of turnovers a team averages per 100 possessions):

Brooklyn: 15.8 (16th)

Houston: 18.7 (30th)

Rebounding – Rebound percentage (the percentage of total rebounds obtained)

Brooklyn: 48.8% (23rd); offensive rebound rate: 24.5% (21st); defensive rebound rate: 72.4% (25th)

Houston: 53.3% (1st); offensive rebound rate: 28.2% (6th); defensive rebound rate: 72.4% (25th)

Free Throws – Free throw rate (the rate at which a team goes to the line relative to the number of field goals it attempts):

Brooklyn: .324 (6th)

Houston: .444 (1st)

Since it’s Black Friday and most of us are likely still working off the effects of a food coma following Thanksgiving Day feasting, we’ll keep it short and sweet today. It’s no secret that the Nets are reeling right now, with injuries to several of their key players having sent them into a tailspin to start the season. Brook Lopez, in particular, has been sorely missed as his low-post presence is an integral part of the Nets’ offensive geometry. He’s missed Brooklyn’s last 7 games with an ankle injury and the Nets have lost all but one of those. He’s been listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s contest. Deron Williams, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, meanwhile, have all been ruled out for Brooklyn. 

As for the Rockets, they've been enjoying life on the opposite end of the spectrum, standing tall as winners of six of their last seven games with four of those victories coming by double-digits – a massive reason why Houston now owns the fourth-best point differential (+6.0) in the NBA (only the Pacers, Spurs and Heat rank higher in that category). The Rockets boast big advantages over Brooklyn in nearly every important category, with none bigger than the edge that ought to result from Houston’s 2nd-ranked offense going toe-to-toe with the Nets’ dead last defense.

It will no doubt be a point of emphasis, then, for the Rockets to put their foot upon the gas pedal and leave Brooklyn squarely in their rearview mirror right from the opening tip; something Houston has done to its opponents for four straight home games now, having not trailed at Toyota Center since the first overtime period of their November 11 game against the Raptors. Expect Houston’s coaches to hammer home the importance of allowing the Nets no opportunity to ever harbor any sort of hope so that the Rockets might emerge victorious over the Brooklyn franchise for the 14th consecutive time.

Injury Update

The Rockets announced today that Jeremy Lin suffered a grade-one sprain and contusion of the right knee when he collided with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap Wedneday night. Lin will be out two weeks and then re-evaluated at that time. Lin’s injury obviously places even greater importance on Aaron Brooks being able to build upon his recent stretch of strong play. Over the course of the last three games, Brooks is averaging nearly 17 points per contest to go along with three rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. And he’s been downright lethal inside the friendly confines of Toyota Center during that stretch; his last two home games have seen him average 23.5 points per contest while hitting 10 of his 13 shots from downtown.

James Harden, meanwhile, could be returning just in time. He’s being listed as a game-time decision, though he did take part in the club’s shootaround this morning – the first time he’s done so after having missed Houston’s last three games.

Greg Smith (knee) has been ruled out for tonight’s game.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com except where otherwise noted.