Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans game preview - November 12

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans: X-Factor

The X-factor for the Rockets against the Pelicans is Jabari Smith Jr. He’ll be tasked with not only keeping Zion Williamson out of the paint but also off the glass. How he does keeping Williamson in check will be a key matchup. 

On offense, Smith has struggled to find his shooting stroke. Williamson doesn’t have much length for a power forward, meaning a confident shooting night from Smith could be a massive advantage for the Rockets. 

Smith may also see some time at center to try and drag Jonas Valancunas out of the paint. On defense, he’ll have his work cut out of him trying to box out the behemoth Valancunas, but if he’s able to open the lane on offense it could be a tactic worth exploring in spurts. 

The X-factor for the Pelicans is C.J. McCollum. The addition of McCollum last season from the Portland Trailblazers helped push the Pelicans into the playoffs. The steady veteran guard flourished when tasked with running the point, but he has struggled to find his shooting stroke this season. 

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A career 39.4% 3-point shooter, McCollum is shooting 29.1% from three this season. McCollum is prime for some positive regression, and when he breaks out of his early season shooting slump, the team on the receiving end is going to feel it.