During this stretch in which west coast teams make an eastern pilgrimage, you would think the Houston Rockets would be looking to establish momentum while keeping the Brooklyn Nets down. Instead, it’s the other way around. The Rockets obviously don’t have the Beastie Boys on their playlist. All they’ve been doing is sleeping on their early season journey to Brooklyn. Will they finally wake up now they’ve arrived?
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A fairly anonymous Nets squad is 3-5 SU under first-time head coach Kenny Atkinson. Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, featuring James Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, are 1-5 SU. Early season concerns focussed on Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ 0-3 start. They’ve won three of their next five. Houston’s issues appear to go much deeper.
Harden and Paul are driving the team but the former is doubtful for this one after already missing two games with a strained hamstring. Houston lost both those games [to Portland and the LA Clippers] by double digits.
Despite Harden’s absence, both the betting public and the experts are solidly in the Rockets’ corner. Is that because Brooklyn needed overtime to break their own three-game slide against Detroit on Hallowe’en night? It might be. Even so, Houston will need a few tricks to treat themselves to a win on the road.
Much will depend on what they get from Carmelo Anthony. Against the Clippers in Harden’s first game out of the lineup, the Brooklyn native responded with 24 points in 34 minutes. He hurt the team at the other end, however, ending up -17 on the court for the night. Against Portland, he disappeared completely, putting up eight points on 2/12 shooting while attempting only a pair of threes. Once again, the Rockets were outscored by 17 while he was on the court. If Carmelo with the hot hand shows up, Houston can cope better at the other end against the Nets than the Blazers.
For all that, Houston is giving away a point on the road. I know Brooklyn doesn’t throw a lot of household names at you but is everyone a slave to the brand these days? Or is it that the visitors have won the last four STRAIGHT UP in this series?
The Nets’ lack of flash is reflected in the TOTAL, as well, which sits at a meagre 213.5. On the other hand, the Rockets didn’t score a 100 points until their fifth game, a 19-point loss to New Orleans. It’s D’Antoni’s style to let it all hang out. The Rockets haven’t held an opponent under a 100 this season. Their 1-5 record tells you how that’s worked for the team. How will it be any better without Harden?
Brooklyn’s defence may have the answer, as in they haven’t had an answer for most teams in this campaign. The only team they held to double-digits was Cleveland. Can these teams run at each other all night? Recent trends say they can. The OVER took the last four games between the two in Brooklyn and four of the last five overall. Can Houston pull out a win? They’re 1-6 AGAINST THE SPREAD in the last seven against the Nets. Again, with the LINE at one in Brooklyn’s favour, there’s not much margin for error. Leave that alone and go with the Over.
Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.