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Three Takeaways in Houston Rockets Loss To Pelicans

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“There’s a reason why this team is so up and down, there’s a reason why when things are really good, things are good and when things are bad they’re bad,” – Bickerstaff

I agree 100 percent with Bickerstaff in his post game interview. After a great Christmas Day game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets took another tough loss in the Big Easy against the New Orleans Pelicans.

At first, it seemed like the Rockets were ready to run the Pelicans out of the gym after they took an 11 point lead midway throughout the second quarter. Unfortunately, lack of defense and dumb plays offensively, helped New Orleans win their tenth victory on the season with a 110-108 win over the Rockets.

And with the Hawks, Warriors, and Spurs their next three games, this was an awful loss for the Rockets.

Three Takeaways From the Game

Execution the Harden Way

We’ve seen this before in game two of the Western Conference Finals, and it was deja vu all over again in New Orleans.

The Rockets do not know how to execute down the stretch in tight games. Not blaming this loss on James Harden, but he could have been a little smarter with the ball in his hands in the final seconds of the game. With six seconds left and three timeouts remaining, why did Harden feel it was best for him to push the ball down the court? Although he did get fouled, the Pelicans had one to give. Which meant, Harden did not go to the free throw line.

With 1.7 seconds left, this gave the Rockets no chance of winning this game. The Pelicans did a great job of denying Harden the ball, which forced Ariza to pass to Dwight Howard who wasn’t expecting the pass and it was easily stolen by Jrue Holiday. Of note, none of the Rockets were even attempting to run any motion which lends itself to believe Bickerstaff discussed no other option.  That, in itself was a problem.

Last week against the Orlando Magic Houston did the same thing. I understand Harden can make clutch plays late in the fourth, but he has to learn what and what not to do in late game situations like last night. Calling a timeout with six seconds left, would have gave the Rockets a better chance at winning, other than playing with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. Until Harden learns how to stop trying to be like Mike, the Rockets will continue to lose close games down the stretch because teams will just double team Harden and or deny him the ball.

FINAL: Pelicans 110, Rockets 108. Bad loss, no doubt about it. Looks like Rockets badly botched clock management in final seconds.

— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) December 27, 2015

No ball Howard

If the Rockets would like to keep Dwight Howard past this season, then changing their offense is a MUST!

Last night Howard only had four shot attempts for seven points. Not because he had an off game, or wasn’t aggressive enough, his teammates never gave him the ball. This is the reason why I hope Howard leaves the Rockets. Houston has disrespected and misused Howard all season, and I feel bad for the guy. Yes, I understand Howard has never had the best post moves throughout his career, but he has always found a way to stay productive offensively. At the very least why not force the opposing team to stop him, especially when he’s shooting over 50% from the field!

This season Houston’s offense consists of shooting a bunch of three’s and watching Harden go one-on-one with the opponent. What an example: just checkout last night’s game. The Rockets shot 33 three-point shots, while James Harden played one-one-one with Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. There were so many time where Howard had his man sealed in the paint, his teammates never fed him the ball. Nothing will change in Houston until the Rockets learn how to give Howard the ball. If not, expect Howard to have a different jersey on next season.

Gordon Was on Fire

Eric Gordon came up huge (26 pts) but 8 of 12 FGA were from three. Great news for Pelicans!! https://t.co/Tf5IcolRY4 pic.twitter.com/OYDlDLrK63

— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) December 27, 2015

While it was a voodoo nightmare for the Rockets, the Pelicans played a great game after their Christmas Day loss to the Heat. While Anthony Davis still had a great game of 24 points, and 13 rebounds, it was his teammate that caused a huge problem for Houston. Have to show some respect to Eric Gordon‘s performance last night.

Gordon was on fire and lit the Rockets up from all over the court. It did not matter who Bickerstaff put on Gordon, it was impossible to slow him down. Gordon scored 26 points on 83 percent shooting from the field. He made a season high eight three-pointers, and in the first half erupted for 19 points.

Although I hated that he played this good against the Rockets, it was nice to see Gordon perform at an all-star level for a change. This was the Eric Gordon fans throughout the league thought they were going to see coming out of Indiana seven years ago. Do not overlook Gordon’s ability to play. If it was not for a few devastating knee injuries over the past few season, Gordon would have been one of the top all-star players in the league.

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