It has been 74 months since the Nets defeated the Houston Rockets, but Brooklyn will look to continue their streak-snapping ways when they host Houston tonight at Barclays Center.
With back-to-back wins over Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Nets snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Bucks that was tied for their longest active streak against any team. Now, they must look to snap a 12-game skid against Houston, one that dates back to Dec. 27, 2006, to continue a pair of positive streaks.
Foremost, of course, is the Nets’ current four-game winning streak, but they also stand at 19-8 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, a start that ties him with Lawrence Frank for the best 27-game start in franchise history.
If they are to get Carlesimo his 20th win tonight, they’ll have to do it without sharpshooter Joe Johnson, who will sit out the game because of plantar fasciitis that flared up in Wednesday’s win over the Bucks. Nets GM Billy King said both earlier in the day and prior to Carlesimo’s press conference that Johnson is “day-to-day,” but added that it was likely he will play on Sunday against Memphis – a diagnosis Carlesimo hopes rings true.
“When (Nets trainer) Timmy (Walsh) told me the other night, I knew he’d be sore…it’s one of those things where the best thing is rest,” Carlesimo said. “It will be a concern for two obvious reasons; one, he’s such a good player, and two, he plays so many minutes and he’s such a crucial player that sitting him out for an extended period of time will have an impact. Maybe you can dodge a bullet for a game or two, but if you sit him out for a while, it’ll be a problem. It’s going to be hard, but a lot of players play dinged up – and maybe dinged up isn’t strong enough a word – but we’ll see what happens.”
C.J. Watson will start in Johnson’s place – with Carlesimo joking that he “won’t ISO or post C.J. up as much as we do with Joe” – and he and Deron Williams will have the tough task of handling one of the NBA’s best backcourts in James Harden and Jeremy Lin.
“Injuries happen, and you just have to play, but what makes the matchup so tough is that their backcourt is so big; their 1-2-3 combo is probably one of the biggest in the league,” Carlesimo said, “but C.J.’s experienced, and I like him out there starting.”
Carlesimo said that MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor may get some extended minutes, and stated that Johnson’s absence affects them offensively as well as defensively.
To that point, Harden is coming off a 40-point game against his old Oklahoma City mates on Wednesday and is averaging 26.5 points this season, which is good for fifth in the NBA, while Lin is averaging 12.9 points and the pair combines for just under 12 assists per game total.
That duo combined for 43 points and 16 assists in Houston’s 119-106 victory over the Nets four weeks ago, and Carlesimo said there was a lot his team could learn from watching that tape back.
“We have to get back in transition; that was the thing we probably did poorest in Houston, and we did a poor job of trying to control tempo at all in that game,” Carlesimo said. “They get the ball up the floor very quickly and they’re good in transition, and if you make them run half-court offense, they share the ball well and the ball moves very quickly. They also shoot a lot of threes, and we didn’t take anything away from them in that game. They just kept coming and we couldn’t stop them.”
This will also be a second homecoming of sorts for Lin, whose rise to fame with the Knicks began with a stellar performance against the Nets last February, and Carlesimo knows that with him and Harden amped up for a big game, the Nets can’t afford to simply match the Rockets tonight.
“It’s similar to the Denver game; we’ll need to score a lot of points to win, but we’re not going to outscore them, so we have to take a couple things away from them,” Carlesimo said. “They come at you with too many offensive weapons.”
One of those weapons that may be out is Chandler Parsons, who averages a line of 14.5 points, 5.6 boards, and 3.7 assists per game; he is a game-time decision due to a sprained right ankle, but the Rockets are expected to the three players they acquired in a trade from Sacramento on Wednesday in uniform tonight.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES