James Harden, far left, and Jeremy Lin, second from left, lead the Houston Rockets into battle Friday night when they visit Deron Williams, far right, and the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m. EST. (Photo : Reuters)
Behind incredible performances by NBA All-Star James Harden and Jeremy Lin, The Houston Rockets (30-26) started out the second half of the NBA season on a high note Wednesday by beating the heavily-favored Oklahoma City Thunder in a thriller.
Now, as they aim to get more momentum to start their second-half playoff push, Lin and Harden must do battle with Deron Williams and All-Star center Brook Lopez when they take on the Brooklyn Nets (33-22) at the Barclays Center Friday night.
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Lin and Harden are coming off a combined 75-point night against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, when they led the Rockets from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to a 122-119 victory over the Thunder. However, the Rockets have been changed somewhat drastically after starter Patrick Patterson and key subs Marcus Morris and Toney Douglas were traded on Wednesday, getting Top Five NBA Draft prospect Thomas Robinson in exchange.
That said, they are taking on a Nets team that has won four games in a row and are only a game behind the Knicks in the Atlantic Division standings. The Nets beat Milwaukee 113-111 Tuesday thanks to Joe Johnson's buzzer-beating shot and again on Wednesday in a 97-94 win.
On an interesting side note, it was against Williams last February where Lin scored 25 points during his sting in New York--the first of a string of great games from Lin that touched off the "Linsanity" craze.
With a return to the Big Apple, can Lin and Harden build on their sensational Wednesday night game? Or will Williams and company make it five in a row as they continue to reach for the Atlantic Division title?
Latinos Post breaks down the match-ups for the game:
Power forward: Reggie Evans, Nets vs. Thomas Robinson, Rockets
One night after a surprising trade, Houston Rockets fans will get their chance to take a look at the 6'10" Robinson.
Robinson struggled with Sacramento, who drafted him with the fifth pick in the NBA Draft, but brings with him youth, athleticism and a self-professed love for doing all the little things and hustle plays which the Rockets need. Meanwhile, Evans, who had eight rebounds against the Rockets last time, can be ferocious on the boards. His 22-rebound night against the Pacers on Feb. 11 is proof of that.
Small forward: Gerald Wallace, Nets vs. Chandler Parsons, Rockets
Wallace, normally a 13.2 point career scorer, has been having a down year with Brooklyn, averaging only 8.8 points this season on 42.9 percent shooting. He hasn't exactly blown anyone away over his last five games, either, netting only 7.4 points per game. Parsons, meanwhile has been getting back to form, shooting 44.4 percent over his last five games while averaging 16.0 points, including back-to-back 17-point nights against the Clippers and the Thunder. Look for Parson to try and get his looks from the three-point line, where he has been taking a good portion of his shots lately.
Center: Brook Lopez, Nets vs. Omer Asik, Rockets
All-Star Lopez wasn't shooting so hot against Milwaukee on Wednesday, hitting only 3-of-13 from the field to finish with nine points. But prior to that, he's been performing at a dangerous pace, averaging 18.8 points over the last five games. And he had a very good game against the Rockets in January, when he scored 21 points.
Asik is coming off a dreadful 3-for-10 shooting night against the Thunder on Wednesday, but his offense, while occasionally a nice bonus for the Rockets, isn't his strength. That would be his rebounding, and Asik, the No.3 rebounder in the NBA, has been grabbing 11.4 boards a night for the last five games.
Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson, Nets vs. James Harden, Rockets
On Wednesday, Harden proved why he is one of the most feared scorers in the game today when he went on a 46-point explosion all over the Thunder, a team that he has struggled against all season. The fifth-highest scorer in the league, Harden has been on fire the last four games, where he is averaging 34.5 points and 6.5 assists. He's Houston's top cog; as he goes, so go the Rockets.
Johnson was red hot before his marginal 8-point game against Milwaukee on Wednesday. However, he has the shooting touch and the quickness to be a pain in the neck for Houston, even though he only scored 13 points against them last time. This will be one very competitive two-guard match-up this evening.
Point Guard: Deron Williams, Nets vs. Jeremy Lin, Rockets
Lin's fans will remember well the Feb. 4, 2012 clash between these two , when Lin's 25 points helped the Knicks to a 99-92 win over the Nets, the precursor for "Linsanity."
Lin has been steadier on offense lately, not only coming off that 29-point, eight assist night against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Thursday, but also averaging 17.0 points and 7.0 assists over the last five games. In his last game against the Nets, Lin scored 14 points to go with nine assists in Houston's 119-106 win over the Nets on Jan. 26.
Williams, who has been dealing with injuries to both of his ankles, netted 19.0 points and 6.7 assists in his last three games. However, if the multi-talented Brooklyn point guard is dealing with tender ankles, he will have a hard time keeping up with the younger and lightning-fast Lin, who can be dangerous when he gets hot and has a little momentum behind him. That makes this contest a little more in the Rockets' favor, though Williams is too talented to discount, even if he's not 100 percent.
Carlos Delfino scored nine points in 42 minutes as a starter against the Thunder on Wednesday, an off night for him but easily rectifiable by coming off the bench again. With Marcus Morris no longer a Rocket, Greg Smith and Toney Douglas will have to step up.
For the Nets, Kris Humphries can be a factor on the boards while power forward Andray Blatche can do a little bit of everything in scoring and rebounding. C.J. Watson is a decent defender and is coming off a 17-point night against the Bucks on Wednesday.
Game Time, TV Schedule, Live Score
Game time starts at 7:30 p.m. EST on CSN Houston and the YES Network. Live score is available via TV Companion, here.
Live Streaming for the Game is can be seen via NBA League Pass