Nets-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets are doing just fine without James Harden, and they may opt to rest him for one more game.

With a meeting against the San Antonio Spurs looming in 24 hours, the Rockets could decide to again rely on their impressive scoring depth in an attempt to continue their dominance of the struggling Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.

Houston (11-5) has won six of seven, winning the last three with Harden sidelined with a sore foot.

His status continues to be uncertain, potentially leaving the Rockets without their top scorer at 24.2 points per game. However, they don't seem to be troubled by his absence.

Houston is hitting 52.2 percent of its shots from the floor over the last three games, including 45.1 from beyond the arc.

The Rockets have also had nine players score in double digits with Harden out, with the bench averaging 42.3 points - 10.2 higher than its season average.

"We've got good chemistry going right now," said Francisco Garcia, a reserve forward averaging 7.1 points.

Garcia and Aaron Brooks had 21 each off the bench to power the Rockets to a 113-84 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

"It's just the way it is," said Brooks, averaging 6.0 points on the season. "We are a talented team. A lot of guys are working out and have a lot of energy that are ready to play."

With its bench clicking so well, it may afford Houston a chance to rest Harden ahead of Saturday's game versus San Antonio.

Before that, they'll try to beat the Nets (4-11) for the 14th straight time, dating to a loss on March 13, 2006. They've won 18 of the past 21 home meetings, including six in a row while averaging 112.5 points.

Harden totaled 51 points to lead the Rockets to wins in both meetings with Brooklyn last season, scoring 29 in a 119-106 victory at Toyota Center.

Omer Asik had 20 points and 16 rebounds in that meeting, and he had 10 and nine, respectively, as a reserve against the Hawks.

While the Rockets are rolling without Harden, the Nets are sputtering along during a 1-6 stretch without Brook Lopez (sore ankle), while Deron Williams has missed six of those seven games with his own ankle injury.

It's unclear when they'll return, and Lopez leads the team with 20.5 points per game while adding 6.5 boards.

Brooklyn certainly missed its stars Wednesday, falling 99-94 to the Los Angeles Lakers while shooting 37.3 percent from the floor. The Nets rallied from a 27-point deficit but couldn't finish off Los Angeles.

Paul Pierce is looking to bounce back from his awful shooting performance against the Lakers, missing 13 of 17 shots, including a potential tying shot with 2.2 seconds left. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The veteran forward is shooting 37.6 percent from the field on the season, a major drop from his 44.6 career mark.

"It's frustrating when the ball doesn't go your way, but eventually I know these shots throughout the course of 82 games are going to fall for me," Pierce said.

He averages 21.6 points in 12 career visits to Houston.

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