Game Day: Houston Rockets Seek First Win vs. SW Division
By Tamberlyn Richardson
Game Day: New Orleans Pelicans versus Houston Rockets
It’s game day with the New Orleans Pelicans in town to play inter division rivals the Houston Rockets as both seek to turn a corner and get their campaign back on track.
Last season the Southwest Division sent all 5 teams to the playoffs and it was argued the Houston Rockets would have a shot to compete for a title this year after reaching the Conference Finals in 2015. The New Orleans Pelicans armed with new coach Alvin Gentry and franchise star Anthony Davis were tapped to be the team who could rise the farthest up the ladder.
Cut to present day and the two teams sit mired in the West’s basement searching for answers. New Orleans has some excuse given the injuries they’ve suffered early, but with Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole all back in the line-up they’ll need to mount an extended win streak to erase their 4-14 start. The Rockets aren’t in much better shape sitting at 7-11, but also received positive news Tuesday that Donatas Motiejunas can finally return to practice.
In any other season the Rockets and Pelicans could count their chances of nabbing a playoff seed already over, but with the parity in the league, there is still an opportunity to change their path and get back in the hunt.
In 3 tries Houston haven’t beat an inter-division rival this season. Though the Division byes have been erased the record against their division will play a role at the end of the season in tie-breakers, so it still is imperative to win these match-ups.
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston Texas
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: NBA TV – Nationally televised, ROOT in Houston, FSNOLA in New Orleans
Radio: 790 AM in Houston and WRNO 99.5 FM in New Orleans
The teams split the season series last year and though both teams suffered multiple injuries oddly most of their core players were available each time they faced one another.
April 12: NOP 114 – 121 HOU
March 25: HOU 95 – 93 NOP
January 2: HOU 83-111 NOP
Dec 18: NOP 99- 90 HOU
Kendrick Perkins – right pectoral, out indefinitely
Quincy Pondexter – left knee, out indefinitely
Norris Cole – left ankle sprain, made season debut versus Memphis last night, listed as probable for tonight.
- Sam Dekker – back surgery November 20 , will be out 3 months
- Donatas Motiejunas – received approval from doctors to practice with team, but unlikely to play yet
Pistons: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca
Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Dwight Howard
The Key Match-up:
Obviously Anthony Davis poses a huge problem for the Rockets in terms of his size, versatility and ability to play in or out of the paint. Oddly the Pelicans haven’t utilized Omer Asik that much since his return to the line-up opting to go with Alexis Ajinca instead. The Pelicans like the Rockets have suffered greatly on the defensive end of the floor which makes the decision not to utilize Asik all the more strange given the Pelicans best defensive line-up features Davis and Asik playing together.
With Tyreke Evans returning to the Pelicans last night versus Memphis the Pelicans finally have close to a full roster to utilize, especially the core contributors. Evans offers a real challenge for James Harden to contain since he can’t just push off that match-up to Beverley who’ll have his hands full with Jrue Holiday.
Pelicans: Omer Asik, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Norris Cole
Rockets: Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer, Ty Lawson, Jason Terry, K.J. McDaniels
Keys To Winning:
Defense: Both teams sit in the basement it’s just that the Pelicans rank 30th compared to the Rockets who sit 27th in the Association. Is it as simple as saying whoever plays defense will win the game? Or is this bound to be a shoot out as both teams just forego any semblance of defending. Ideally the Rockets decide to change their terrible habits and get to work. At some point you would think Bickerstaff or one of the core leaders is going to recognize the reason Houston did so well last season was because their offense fed off their great defense!
Jump on Tired Pelicans Early/Full 48 minute effort: The Rockets once again benefit from the schedule facing a team on the second night of a back to back while they play on a days rest. Given the Rockets have put themselves in positions where they either get in a big hole early or don’t play a full 48 minutes hopefully they recognize the need to learn from their mistakes.
Get the Lead Prior to the Fourth: New Orleans is 4-0 when leading after the third quarter (not to say it’s less important to get out to a great start) and are win-less in the 14 games they’ve trailed after 3.
Capitalize on Points in the Paint: Again both teams are terrible at protecting the paint ranking 30th (Rockets) and 29th (Pelicans). It seems logical that whichever team wins the paint battle will have the edge.
Transition: As much as the paint issues of both teams highlights their poor defensive efforts it starts in transition, so again whichever team masters their efforts defensively by picking up the opposition in transition should bode well for gaining the upper hand. With Evans back to play alongside Holiday this poses a big challenge for the Rockets back court. The question is which James Harden shows up tonight? The one who defends or the one who lets players run past him pointing down court at teammates to stop the player who just ran by him!
Don’t let Pelicans get Hot From 3:
Last week Ryan Anderson was on fire behind the arc and they boast several players capable of hitting threes. Last season the Rockets were a great perimeter defending team – – another area they’ve regressed in dramatically this season.
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The odds makers favor the home town Houston Rockets to win by 4 and their over-under is listed at 211.5
While the Pelicans have as close to a full roster as they’ve brought to the court all season with the return of Evans and Cole they come into Houston having played last night.
Meanwhile the Rockets have been off since getting dusted in Detroit on Monday. The rest should give the Rockets the edge, but they haven’t proven to anyone they can do what’s expected this season. Well, unless you count that James Harden will use up most of the shot clock on iso-ball dribbling. I’d love to say I’m joking, but I’m not and still feel there are huge chemistry issues afoot on the team.
Still, they Rockets have raised their level facing high quality teams so perhaps we’ll get a full on defensive effort tonight given the Pelicans should be tired. Suffice to say, nothing is a guarantee this season and though this should be an automatic Rockets victory I’ll point to these facts:
- If the Rockets start the game strong I’ll have more confidence they intend to win
- If the Pelicans lead heading into the fourth look for New Orleans to close out the game
- If Harden scores 40 or more it should signify a win (hey it’s the only common factor through the Rockets wins)
Granted, I’d rather Harden played more of a complete game working on both ends of the court and took on the task of instigating ball and player movement.
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