Houston Rockets Game Day: He’s Back!
By Tamberlyn Richardson
Houston Rockets Game Day:
Record: 37-33, Western: 1oth, Record: 47-23, Western: 3rd,
Central: 5th, last ten 5-5 Southwest: 2nd, last ten 6-4
Houston Rockets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Wed Mar 25, 8:00 PM EST – CSNH, FSNO, RTSW
Smoothie King Center – New Orleans, LA
Jan 3 HOU 83-111 NOP Dec 19 NOP 99-90 HOU Oct 15 HOU 98-117 NOP
Apr 17 HOU 100-105 NOP Apr 13 NOP 104-111 HOU
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- The big news of the day is Dwight Howard is set to return tonight facing a former teammate and nemesis Omer Asik in New Orleans. He’ll be tested immediately having to guard the best young front court player in the league (Anthony Davis) who like Harden is also an MVP candidate.
- New Orleans has fallen on tough times losing their last 3 games and slipping three and a half games back of Oklahoma City for the eighth seed. OKC are on a 4-game win streak and have also distanced themselves from the charging Suns who’ve also won 4 straight but haven’t made up any ground. There’s nothing worse than facing a desperate team so coach Kevin McHale needs to keep his team focused on sticking to their game plan and their hard nosed defense.
- Just as the Rockets finally get Howard back they lose Patrick Beverley to a torn ligament in his wrist. Oddly they say they’ll reassess in 7-10 days to decipher if he requires surgery. All season we’ve opined on how the Rockets should have upgraded their starting point guard position before the trade deadline and now they will have to make due with two 37 year olds in Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni. So now the focus will shift from what Beverley could provide offensively to what he did provide defensively.
Next: Limping To the Finish?
Mar 12, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
- Tyreke Evans is listed as questionable with a sore ankle
- Omer Asik is listed as probable given he practiced Tuesday
- Ryan Anderson is putting up shots, but he remains out
- Jrue Holiday did some activities (shooting drills), but has yet to practice with team his return remains questionable
- Patrick Beverley will replace Howard on the injury list and may miss significant time with a torn ligament in his wrist
- Terrence Jones will miss the game due to the partially collapsed lung he suffered last Thursday and will be reevaluated Friday
- Kostas Papanikolaou remains out, this will be his 15th missed game
As big as the news is that Dwight will return tonight, perhaps the more compelling news is that Patrick Beverley will be out and it may be a season ending injury. He has a torn ligament in his wrist which may require surgery and that would take him out for the season and playoffs. This leaves Jason Terry as the starting point guard and Pablo Prigioni as the back-up, both are 37 years old.
Next: What do you have in reserve?
Jan 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) and Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) in the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Rockets won 99-87. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston has stabilized in their bench production however with news Patrick Beverley will miss games and possibly the season this will add pressure to the bench. So far Josh Smith and Corey Brewer have stepped up and with Howard returning this should help, but if Beverley does end up requiring surgery how much will the bench required to offset his absence?
Conversely, the Pelicans had a mid range performing bench for the majority of the season, but with Holiday, Anderson and Davis all missing significant periods of time recently it’s effected their bench production.
Full bench stats at hoopsstats.com
Obviously with Howard back the focus will be on his minutes likely capped at 16 per game versus Pelican star Anthony Davis. The other bigs (Motiejunas, Smith) will need to address the issue of handling Davis and the other Pelican big Omer Asik who should return to the line-up tonight.
The main issue for Houston though may come from their point guard spot where two 37 year olds will carry the load given Beverley’s injury.
Next: Difference Makers
Mar 19, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis sits on the bench in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 74-72. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
- Anthony Davis 24.6 points per game
- Anthony Davis 10.4 rebounds per game
- Jrue Holiday 7.1 assists per game
- Anthony Davis 2.9 blocks per game
- Jrue Holiday 1.6 steals per game
- James Harden 27.2 points per game
- Dwight Howard 11. rebounds per game
- James Harden 7.0 assists per game
- Terrence Jones 1.6 blocks per game
- James Harden 1.9 steals per game
Keys To Winning:
- Keep it simple: With Howard’s return and Beverley’s exit the team needs to focus on the simple things like playing solid defense (especially since this is New Orleans Achilles heel, though in fairness they’ve dealt with so many injuries it’s hard to decipher how good they could be on defense with a full complement of players).
- PACE: Houston has a decided advantage on pace which they should look to exploit
- The Rockets lost the first 2 games to the Pelicans and need to send a message by playing tough basketball, the problem is with Howard just back and Beverley out will there be some adjustment pains as the team look to find their rhythm. And, while New Orleans has the same issues they’ve dealt with so many injuries to so many players they’re almost adept at adjustments now. To that end, the Pelicans will be playing desperate as they can’t afford to lose any more ground on Oklahoma City.
Next: And the magic eight ball predicts...
Mar 23, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) who scored 44 points does his signature gesture of stirring the pot after scoring against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Houston defeats Indiana 110-100. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The odds makers are as confused as we are in terms of knowing exactly what we should expect tonight and call this a pick. In fairness we can’t expect much from Howard in his first outing back though players have a tendency to perform well just based on adrenaline in their returns. The problem is the point and knowing what to expect especially when Evans has been playing so solid for the Pelicans (though he’s nursing an ankle injury). After months or us complaining about the lack of production from Beverley offensively, we’ve about to find out how much he provides defensively.
Hard to pick between a desperate team (New Orleans) whose backs are against the wall trying to catch up to Phoenix and Oklahoma City who currently hold the eighth seed versus a team who should be elated to get their co-captain back after his second lengthy stint on the injured list this season. Houston does have to guard against letting the Pelicans winning again as the divisional records may make the difference for seeding at the end of the season. With the Clippers, Blazers and Spurs all nipping at the Rockets heels that could be the difference in getting home court advantage come mid April.
Next: Superman is not walking through that door