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Houston Rockets 3-0 in preseason, player grades and game summary vs Pelicans

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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In another offensive showcase the Houston Rockets continued to roll besting the New Orleans Pelicans 123-117

Three games into the preseason it’s clear the Houston Rockets are going to be a difficult team to stop offensively.  The question is whether they will bring the defensive effort. Through the first 2 games that appeared to be a hidden gem as the Rockets had held their opponents to reasonable percentages from the field and from the perimeter.

Until today, when the New Orleans Pelicans gave them everything they could handle.

117. 69. . 123. 169

By the half it looked like the Rockets were well on their way to another 130 point effort. In the end, the Rockets need to lock down defensively to get the victory and fell just short of their 130 point average.

Still, through 3 games the Rockets are averaging 128 points per game.

Today’s match served up a number of players who switched jerseys in the off season and in hindsight a squad who looks to be poised to also put up some big offensive scoring nights.

Next: Quarterly Report

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) attempts to get control of the ball during the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Quarter highlights:

First Quarter:

James Harden was sublime running the point with big men Clint Capela and Nene Hilario specifically benefiting:

Capela: 6 points, 2 rebounds

Nene Hilario: 8 points, 4 rebounds (3 offensive rebounds), assist

James Harden: 6 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds

Rockets led 37-30 in the frame.

Second Quarter:

Harden played fewer minutes, but in this frame the back court of Eric Gordon and James Harden took over.

By the half their stats were:

Harden: 15 points, 3 of 4 from deep, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, steal

Gordon: 12 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist

The Rockets at the half were on target to equal their previous efforts (130 points) leading 68-65.

Stats at the half of Rockets vs Pelicans in Shanghai, China: #Rockets #NBA pic.twitter.com/seMtAWk0Yk

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) October 9, 2016

Second Half:

K.J. McDaniels continues to be one of D’Antoni’s early bench insertions and hasn’t disappointed. Now that he’s mixing in the 3-point shot with his jaw dropping dunks and defense he’s quickly becoming the x-factor on the team.

McDaniels: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 of 1 three pointer and team high +4

Another element of the Rockets first 3 games has been Ryan Anderson playing better in the second half. Anderson came out shooting hot to start the third quarter hitting deep threes from well beyond the arc drawing ooh’s from the crowd.

The second half offered better defensive efforts from both sides with the Pelicans initially taking a lead they hung on to until the late stages of the game.

Final game stats in #Rockets win over #Pelicans pic.twitter.com/2qXYF4xtcF

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) October 9, 2016

D’Antoni flirted with different line combinations specifically when Harden was off the court.  In spite of that, it was clear “The Beard” is the one who makes this team function at their utmost.

Of note, Harden collected half of the teams turnovers, a stat I’m sure he’ll want to take control of prior to regular season launch

Next: Player Grades - Starters

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A+. Harden continues to impress from the point. Truth be told it’s not surprising to see the bearded man excelling at dishing assists. Rather, the manner in which he sees the floor and knows when to score and when to share is what has been a revelation. A continuing trend from last season which allowed the Pelicans to remain in the game were his copious turnovers. That said, it’s obvious the D’Antoni – Harden marriage seems to be well into the honeymoon phase with plenty of happy times to follow. The grade may seem a tad high, but he was 3 rebounds short of a triple double and managed to shift his plus/minus from a negative 6 to a +1 in the final quarter. <p>STATS: 26 Points, 7 Rebounds, 15 Assists, 3 of 9 Three poiners, 2 Steals, 11 of 12 Free Throws, +1 Plus/Minus, 8 Turnovers</p>. Point Guard. . James Harden

A. Gordon made a pretty move in the second quarter that showcased finesse and power equally. Through 3 games what I’ve liked is he’s letting the game come to him and looks to be in terrific condition. He hit the three pointer with less than a minute remaining to put the Rockets up by one point. I’ve never understood the hype surrounding Gordon, but through 3games in the preseason what I’ve noticed is how quietly he gets his points and his constant positive nature on the court. Maybe he’s just one of those players you have to see more of to appreciate. <p>STATS: 24 Points, 1 Rebounds, 1 Assists, 1 Steals: 5 of 10 Three Pointers, 3 of 5, Free Throw, +2 Plus/Minus, 3 Turnovers</p>. Shooting Guard. . Eric Gordon

Trevor Ariza. C+. No one stands to benefit more offensively from James Harden running the point and having shooters Anderson and Gordon on the court than Ariza. When the opponent is able to slow Harden or the man to man coverage on Anderson and Gordon is equal to the task, it offers Ariza wide open looks from the perimeter. Still, Ariza will need to be the main defender on the court and he vacillated between positive and negative moments today. He did make two solid defensive plays to end the first and final quarters.<br /> STATS: 6 Points: 3 Rebounds: 3 Assists: 2 of 4 Three Pointers, -1 Plus/Minus. Small Forward.

A. Once again Anderson had a quieter first half. Though he did miss a few shots, it appears D’Antoni’s game plan centers around getting the centers rolling knowing Anderson, Harden and Gordon can kick start their offense at will.<br /> He garners the A based on being the only starter on the positive side of the plus minus throughout the second half; something his counterparts didn’t achieve until late in the game. Furthermore he shot above 50% from behind the arc (at 50% from the field).<br /> STATS: 21 Points, 5 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, 4 of 7 Three Pointers, 3 of 5, Free Throws, +4 Plus/Minus: +4. Power Forward. . Ryan Anderson

Center. . Clint Capela. B+. Capela is the reverse of Anderson in that he tends to start games well and then regresses or disappears in the second half at least from an offensive stand point. That said, Capela has looked sharp through 3 games and is showing substantial growth. He continues to excel on the boards, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Also hanging over from last season is his issues at the free throw line. <p>STATS: 12 Points, 7 Rebounds (4 offensive), 1 Assists, 1 Steals, 1, Blocks, 0 of 2 Free Throws, +1 Plus/Minus, 1 Turnovers</p>

Next: Best Rockets reserve and opponent grades

Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The reserve unit for the Rockets is also taking shape with Nene Hilario, K.J. McDaniels, Corey Brewer and Pablo Prigioni drawing the first assignments.  In today’s game D’Antoni elected to use just 5 additional reserves, so expect to see Dekker and Ennis in Wednesday’s game.

Clearly with McDaniels showcasing his defense, energy and expanded range he’s become a player who may start to press D’Antoni for reasons to play him more than Corey Brewer.

On the opposite  end of the spectrum Montrezl Harrell still seems uncertain defensively and continues to make poor choices gambling to recover. Harrell did make up for his poor showing late in the game with energy plays. But he followed it up by getting in the players face requiring Ariza and Harden to back him off his verbal assault. Sure, he’s fighting for a job, but the more I see of him the more I wish Morey and D-Mo would find resolution to their contract conflict.

From the opponent’s side Anthony Davis is a fantasy players darling. That said, he doesn’t seem to be a captivating leader, and not sure these Pelicans will continue to put these type of numbers throughout the regular season.  Though Anderson and Gordon got the better of their old team it should also be noted Omer Asik grabbed a double-double of 14-14 with 5 blocked shots. In spite of these strong showings and the first sight of Hield who looks like he fits Gentry’s system, there was one Pelican who shone the brightest on this day.

Best Rockets Reserve:

A-. Through 3 games there is an argument raging whether Nene Hilario or KJ McDaniels have been the biggest surprise of x factor variety. Given Nene has been there before I’m going with the latter. Now that McDaniels appears to have added the corner three to his game he makes a strong case to sub him in sooner and for longer minutes than Corey Brewer. <p>STATS: 11 Points, 8 Rebounds, 1 of 2 Three pointer, 2 Blocks, 4 of5 Free Throws, +4 Plus/Minus</p>. Small Forward. . KJ McDaniels

Best Pelican:

A. While Anthony Davis is the main man in New Orleans, but E’Twaun Moore is certainly a surprising plus for Alvin Gentry. Without Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans available the Pelican’s are thin in the back court so Moore’s emergence is enlightening. Moore caused fits for the opposing guards and is showcasing major growth this season. Moore shot perfectly from deep and also created loose ball turnovers snaring 3 steals. <p>STATS: 25 Points, 2 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Steals, 4 of 4 Three point shots, 2 of 3 Free Throws,</p>. Shooting Guard. . E'Twaun Moore

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Next: Sam Dekker Player Profile

Next up the Rockets will play the Pelicans again this Wednesday again with an  early morning tip-off.

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