On the heels of an overtime come back win in Denver, tired legs finally caught up to the Houston Rockets as they succumbed to Anthony Davis and his New Orleans Pelicans in the fourth quarter getting outscored 34-22 which culminated in a 90-99 loss.
Pelican Super Star Davis Lives Up To Hype:
It was going to be a long night for Houston who arrived early this morning in a return flight from Denver where they had battled back to tie the game and ultimately won in overtime. The second quarter was particularly bad for the Rockets who scored a season low 17 points and left them trailing 46-39 at the half.
Hyped as a big game given the return of Omer Asik who became more recognizable for his sullen face on the sidelines last season in Houston rather than his play on the court. Asik wasn’t the key factor in the Pelican’s win as he scored just 2-points and collected 11-rebounds while registering the worst plus/minus of the Pelicans’ starters with a minus -2.
The true star of the game was Anthony Davis who scored 30 points, had 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 5 huge blocks. Jrue Holiday added a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists. While a win would have been nice for the Rockets the Pelicans are on a stretch of games which will have them facing Western powerhouses: Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio (twice) and culminate with another game early January versus the Rockets.
To that end, this was the first meeting between the two teams of the season with future dates slated January 2nd and March 25th in New Orleans and a second meeting in Houston near the end of the season: April 12th. Fortunately, this game is the only time the Rockets will face Davis and his Pelicans on the back end of a back to back, so these future dates will provide a truer test of how Howard and Davis will measure up to one another.
With Davis filling up the stat sheet nightly his rise up the ranks is akin to that of a young Dwight Howard in his early Orlando days. The biggest difference is Davis began playing basketball as a point guard prior to his growth spurt which makes him a very capable ball handler and often the player who is instigating the offensive play sets for the Pelicans.
While Howard’s first game back versus Denver showcased him looking like he hadn’t lost a step, his second game showed the center looking more rusty as he works his way back into game shape and regains his timing. Certainly the effects of the late night caught up with the entire Rocket team who’ve been riding James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas hard with so many Rocket players injured.
In terms of the injured Rockets Isaiah Canaan returned to play in the Wednesday Denver game with the Rockets easing him back in the line-up playing him only 6:32 and 10:39 tonight. Also returning from injury was Kostas Papanikolaou who returned to play 22:36 in his first game back where he garnered 4-points, 4-assists and 2-rebounds. Francisco Garcia and Terrence Jones are still out with injury along with Jason Terry who missed the game to attend to his wife and new born baby. Naturally when players return after a prolonged absence they need to get their timing back, but it also effects the healthy players who’ve developed an on-court chemistry while the injured players were out.
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More Record Setting:
Since Howard’s return he has been setting records: his first game back he became the third youngest player to collect 10,000 rebounds (Chamberlain/Russell) and tonight he moved to number 25 in career blocks when he collected his 1,691 block. Coincidentally the person he passed for the honor is his coach Kevin McHale.
Story of the Game:
None of the Rockets shot well tonight shooting a mere 38.4% from the field and an abysmal 24% from behind the arc. James Harden shot 8-23 and Motiejunas shot 4-13. Howard was the only starter (7 of 15) who shot a decent percentage though reserves Canaan and Daniels combined to shoot 5 of 7 for 13 points.
With Houston trailing 46-39 at the half the Rockets rallied in the third quarter outscoring the Pelicans by 10-points (29-19) to take a 68-65 lead into the final frame. Following a 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter the Pelicans led by 4-points and Houston was never able to mount a charge to close that lead.
The Rockets can right this one off to exhaustion and take Friday to rest up prior to hosting the very hot Atlanta Hawks team who are 9-1 coming in. Then Monday they’ll play inter-conference rivals Portland who’ll arrive without the benefit of their big man Robin Lopez who fractured his hand earlier this week.
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