The Pelicans are the last team in the Southwest Division for the Rockets to take on. Though they have compiled an impressive 5-2 record against their divisional foes, these games are never easy and the Rockets would do well to remember that this New Orleans team was the only group to beat them in the (meaningless, yes) preseason.
The Pelicans for their part have had solid wins this season, including 2 against the Grizzlies (once when Gasol wasn't injured) and an OT win in Chicago. They also have some close losses against quality opposition, like losses to Dallas, Portland, and Golden State by three points each time.
They're young, they have talent, and they can hang with anyone. Basically, this is the kind of team that the Rockets have had trouble with this season. Philadelphia and Sacramento are two notable examples of teams that have defeated the Rockets despite being at a talent disadvantage. And tonight I'm not sure there is much of gap.
The good news for the Rockets is that the Pelicans hosted the Nuggets last night, so for the first time in a while the Rockets will be coming off a day while their opponents will be on a back-to-back. Of course, the Rockets have to turn around and play the Thunder tomorrow, but that's for future us to deal with.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Jrue Holiday
If Aaron Brooks isn't back from his ankle injury, the Rockets might be forced into played Isaiah Canaan for a couple of shifts tonight. Meanwhile, the Rockets need Fourth Quarter Jeremy Lin to be available for quarters 1-3 as well. And his defense will need to be up to snuff once again.
As for Holiday, he's having a career year across the board and all of his shooting numbers are up. I'm very impressed with him, especially after his play became pedestrian after the All-Star break last season.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Eric Gordon
Gordon is averaging a career-low 15.4 points per game and shooting 43% from the field.
He'll attempt to get out of the slump tonight.
On the other side, James Harden will try to make more than two field goals tonight. I expect he will.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Al-Farouq Aminu
Aminu isn't the greatest jump shooter, but when he gets to the basket he can score a bunch of points. After seeing James Johnson light up the Rockets, I'd rather not see another small forward get dunks to fill up their highlight reels.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Ryan Anderson
I hope Jones takes this matchup personally. Really, I do.
But shooters shoot. And Anderson is a shooter.
This matchup comes down to who dictates the position. If Jones is running Anderson ragged, then the Rockets are likely to get a boost. If Anderson gets hot and forces Jones to chase him through screens and stay on the perimeter, that could be trouble for the home team.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Anthony Davis
Davis is crazy versatile, but we already knew that. When he came out of college and everyone said he was the next Tim Duncan, I thought they were crazy. Now, I'm not so sure.
Davis is averaging 19/10 plus three blocks a game on 50% shooting. He's got a PER of 27.2. For comparison, Dwight Howard's PER is 22.6.
Davis also runs the floor really well and will get at least a couple of easy baskets in transition because he's faster than most other bigs. When you have a player that can do that, it forces big men to run back on every shot. Eventually, that will lead to open looks on the perimeter for a stretch 4 since the other bigs will run straight to the rim. And look! The Pelicans have one of those stretch 4s!
Instead of talking about Dwight in this space, I want to talk about D-Mo.
I've got a buddy who was a huge Michael Carter-Williams believer out of Syracuse. He was sure his game would translate to the NBA. On the flip side, he knows that I loved me some Victor Oladipo in college and that he's my guy.
Whenever one of them goes off, we usually text each other and tell the other how smart they were for believing in their guy.
So when Motiejunas went in and saved the Rockets' bacon in the post, I immediately thought of our own Bobbythegreat and felt happy for him. I hope D-Mo continues to prove you right man.
[Naidze] Donatas Motiejūnas - "All Of The Lights" NBA MIX HD (via TheNaidze)
Rockets: Aaron Brooks (?), Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Donatas Motiejunas, Isaiah Canaan
Pelicans: Lou Amundson, Darius Miller, Alexis Ajinca, Brian Roberts, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow
Prediction: I want to predict a win, but something keeps nagging me that the Pelicans will win. 110-101 Pellies.
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