Houston Rockets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
The Houston Rockets will look to continue their spirited efforts as of late as they visit the New Orleans Pelicans in a match up that features two teams who seem to be peaking offensively at the right time. With the playoff stretch inching closer and closer, the Rockets have secured a nice cushion ahead of those competing for the 8th seed winning seven of their last ten outings. New Orleans however are on the outside looking in with a record of 16-27 leaving them four games outside of playoff contention.
Despite the slim hopes of post season access, the Pelicans have shown signs of life through an impressive three game winning streak limiting opponents to exactly 99 points each game while scoring an average of 115.
Venue: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: FSNOLA, ROOT
Radio: 790 AM, WRNO 99.5FM
Both teams have faced each twice this season splitting the series 1-1.
December 2, 2015: HOU 108 – 101 NO
December 26, 2015: NO 110 – 108 HOU
New Orleans Pelicans
- Dante Cunningham – Illness (probable)
- Eric Gordon – Broken Right Finger (out 4-6 weeks)
- Quincy Pondexter – Knee (out for season)
- Dwight Howard – Ankle (doubtful)
- Donatas Motiejunas – Back (out indefinitely)
New Orleans Pelicans: Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik
Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela
Keys To Winning
Not even in my wildest imagination would I have guessed around this time last year that James Harden would not be starting in the All Star game next season. Harden being the victim of perhaps fairly deserved scrutiny behind his lack of leadership and efforts have summed up the media’s image of the misunderstood superstar this season. Despite all the hate, Harden has been performing at an all time high as of late posting two triple doubles in the last three games. With the absence of Howard, Harden has carried the load not only generating points for himself but for others as well dissecting defenses that collapse on his dribble drive – finding wide open cutters and shooters from all areas of the floor.
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Although New Orleans has vamped up their performance as of late, the achilles heel of this talented ball club continues to be their Houdini act on defense. On the season, the Pelicans are the fourth worst team surrendering 108.5 points per 100 possessions in terms of defensive efficiency. Against a streaking Rockets team that features perhaps the best shooting guard in today’s game and a team scoring 115.4 per 100 possessions in their last five games- a lack thereof defensively is the ultimate recipe for disaster.
Offensively since the arrival of Josh Smith, Houston’s small ball lineup have proven to be effective with much credit going to the play making ability of Smith. Teams have capitalized against New Orleans’ slouchy rim protection by playing stretch fours forcing the Pelican’s only viable rim protector – Anthony Davis out on the perimeter, leaving the paint wide open against guys like Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik. Forcing Davis to guard out on the perimeter also takes away his outstanding rebounding ability. The Rockets are a scrappy team who value the opportunity of second chance points, so look for players such as Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard (if he goes) to have a huge impact on tonight’s game.
Defensively Houston must keep Tyreke Evans from penetrating the lane. Tyreke is phenomenal at getting into the lane and causing havoc with his size and ball handling ability. Limiting his opportunities in the lane and forcing him to beat you from outside with his unreliable jumper is vital to slowing this Pelicans team down. Trevor Ariza will more than likely have the assignment of matching up with Anthony Davis. Not much can be done to completely stop Davis as his offensive game has expanded beyond 15 feet where he has shown many times this season that the jumper is to be respected. Despite the off season improvement, Davis is most effective when attacking the basket where he is almost virtually impossible to stop. Sadly, Davis has the tendency of falling in love with the jumper which as a defender you’re fine with. Davis being a jump shooter poses less of a threat than he does as a slasher or post man.
In short, Houston can easily reel off a road win against a poorly coached Pelicans team if attacking the rim and limiting lane penetration is on the agenda tonight.
The odds makers have New Orleans favored by 5 points at home with a total of 217.
This episode seems all too familiar and it’s typically not an enjoyable one. After a spirited win over a division rival Dallas Mavericks, the Rockets have historically come out flat in situations such as tonight.
Houston – 105
New Orleans – 109
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