James Harden had one of his best games of the season, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Houston Rockets over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
Directly following two solid wins against the Cavaliers and Lakers, the Houston Rockets tripped out of the gate in New Orleans. Most players on the roster had off nights and the team as a whole never got it going. The game marks their 22nd loss of the season and their first to the Pelicans.
The primary issue during Friday night’s division showdown was Houston’s defense. Somehow, they allowed the Pelicans to put up 36 first quarter points, and it didn’t get much better from there. New Orleans was able to score at least 29 points in every quarter, and the Rockets rarely were able to keep up.
After the Pelicans built a 20-point lead early in the second frame, the two teams played tick for tack. Houston got within 14 early in the fourth to give Red Nation a glimmer of hope, but they couldn’t build enough momentum to win.
The only player who came to play for the Rockets was MVP candidate James Harden. He actually played a wonderful game, scoring 41 points to go along with 11 assists and 14 rebounds. He did so efficiently as well, shooting 12/21 from the field and limiting his turnovers to 5. For an example of how poorly the rest of the team played, there were 7 total assists on the evening not counting Harden’s.
The four non-Bearded starters combined to shoot 11/35 from the field. Eric Gordon, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams all scored in double digits, but it wasn’t enough to move the needle in Houston’s direction.
As I previously stated, defense was the biggest issue of the night, even with the poor shooting considered. Most notably, Solomon Hill was allowed to tally a career high in both points and assists, finishing with 30 points, 7 assists, and 6 boards. The small forward averages just 6.5 points per game, so his breakout was unexpected and helped the Pelicans’ energy to stay high throughout the contest.
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Anthony Davis also played well, scoring 24 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds. Three other Pelicans finished with double figures in points as well.
One worrisome thing from the game is that Sam Dekker exited after 4 minutes with back spasms. Ironically, he was the Rocket to finish with a positive +/- on the night.
He is now reportedly listed as questionable to Saturday’s matchup against the Nuggets. His energy has been a game changer on multiple occasions, so his team will definitely want him to suit up.
The Rockets will fly to Denver for the second time on the second night of a back-to-back. They beat the Nuggets easily last time after a 2OT game against the Warriors, so they have every reason to go in with confidence.