The host Rockets may be feeling better about their chances Saturday night considering they're going for a 12th straight victory against the Nets.
Brooklyn (26-17) had pulled within one game of Atlantic Division-leading New York by winning 10 of 11, but it couldn't continue to close that gap Friday. The Nets shot 40.8 percent from the field - 3 of 17 from beyond the arc - while being routed 101-77 at Memphis.
"They just came out and played better than us," guard Deron Williams said. "They played tougher than us. They outrebounded us and out-toughed us. This is a game where we didn't come out and play the way we were supposed to play."
The Rockets (23-22) were also enjoying success in the early part of this month, having won 10 of 12 before dropping a season-high seven in a row. They've since recovered to win two of their last three, and they were rarely threatened while pouring in 11 of 21 from 3-point range in Friday's 100-82 victory at New Orleans.
"We played the right way and guys made shots," said James Harden, who scored 30. "There were a lot of things that really put us over the top."
Facing Brooklyn may be an ideal way for Houston to build on that performance. The Rockets have won 14 of the past 15 meetings with the Nets, including 11 in a row while averaging 107.6 points and shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Harden has been the spark behind Houston's high-scoring offense this season, and he will be the Rockets' lone representative when they host next month's All-Star game. He has connected on half of his 32 attempts from the floor and all 17 of his free throws over the past two games, totaling 53 points.
That's a vast improvement from the previous four contests, when he made just 25.0 percent from the field and needed to connect on 40 of 48 free throws to average 21.0 points - still well below his career-best mark of 25.9 for the season.
Jeremy Lin is averaging a modest 12.0 points, but he totaled 46 and 16 assists in two meetings with the Nets during his breakout stretch for New York last season. Williams also thrived offensively in the point guard matchup, averaging 29.5 points and 8.5 assists in those two contests.
The Nets are expecting to have Williams back after he left Friday's defeat in the third quarter with a quad contusion. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said he could have returned if the outcome had been in doubt.
"It just seemed like more sense to let the (reserves) finish it out," said Carlesimo, who is 12-3 since replacing the fired Avery Johnson last month.
Williams has missed the Nets' last two meetings with Houston, and Brook Lopez was also out for the most recent one, which the Rockets won 112-106 on March 10. The center had averaged 20.6 points on 57.5 percent shooting over the previous five games in the series.
Joe Johnson found success against the Rockets while with Atlanta, scoring 21.6 points per game the last eight times he's faced them.
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- Houston Rockets
- Brooklyn Nets
- Deron Williams