November 1 vs. Houston Rockets
In January of 2019, the Nets were in the midst of fighting back to overcome their slow start to the campaign. When they traveled to the Toyota Center on January 16, they sat a game below .500 at 22-23.
Brooklyn played far from their best game that night and trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter. But a Herculean effort led by Spencer Dinwiddie propelled the Nets down the stretch to force overtime and eventually earn a victory by the score of 145-142.
The game featured Brooklyn erasing an eight-point lead with under a minute to go to force OT, fighting back from another seven-point deficit in the extra period with only a minute and a half remaining, along with an NBA record 106 three-pointers attempted between the teams (including a whopping 70 from Houston) which all combined to create one of the most entertaining games of the season. Oh yeah, and James Harden dropped 58 points too and was not happy afterward.
The matchup could prove to be even more fun this year, with Irving and Russell Westbrook thrown into the mix. Irving’s ability off the bounce should create issues for Houston defensively just like Dinwiddie exhibited last year, while Westbrook’s physicality at the guard spot will prove to be a challenge for Brooklyn’s backcourt.
The stylistic differences offensively will be intriguing to view as well. Although both teams value floor spacing and are not shy from downtown, Brooklyn’s offense is much more predicated on ball movement and motion, while Houston will now rely on the first and third most iso-heavy players in the league (Harden and Westbrook respectively).
Another underlying storyline in this one will be the relationship between Houston’s star backcourt. This will be their fifth game, so observing the early dynamic between Harden and Westbrook will be fascinating to watch, as Mike D’antoni attempts to fit the somewhat awkward pairing together on the court.
Since the departure of Trevor Ariza last offseason, the Rockets have become quite thin at the forward spots. The Nets have a clear advantage here between Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, and Rodions Kurucs, who ironically all could fit well alongside the hard-nosed PJ Tucker were they to play for Houston.
This matchup has the potential to be a barn-burner as each team tries to find its footing early in the season. And if last season’s thriller is any indication, we could be in store for another memorable affair.