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Rockets come back late to steal preseason win vs. Pelicans

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The Rockets used hot shooting in the fourth quarter to comeback and take a victory away from the Pelicans. When does the regular season start again? Not soon enough is the correct answer.

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Excitement levels weren't too high to watch a preseason game between the Rockets and Pelicans when Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Corey Brewer, Patrick Beverley, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis were all out. Their absences led to increased playing time for young rotational players... and Kendrick Perkins.

You can probably tell which one I wasn't excited to see. However meaningless the result was, let's take a look at some key story lines of the game and which players stood out, for good or bad.

The Rockets sported a starting lineup consisting of Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Montrezl Harrell, and Clint Capela. In the first quarter, sloppy play on offense and a lack of defense allowed the Pelicans to score 37 points and jump out to a 10-point lead. Ty Lawson hit a couple of threes in the first quarter, something that will be important to watch throughout the season as he will get more open looks when James Harden is running the offense.

However, the Rockets went almost five minutes in the first quarter without scoring, allowing the Pelicans to take control. Kendrick Perkins was out-hustling the Rockets' young front court, and Ryan Anderson hit fadeaway after fadeaway.

The Rockets tightened up in the second quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 29-22 and making the game competitive going into halftime. The second half started like the second quarter, with both teams going back and forth trading buckets, when Clint Capela did this to Kendrick Perkins.

Let's be honest, everyone should send thank you letters to Capela from saving us from having to see more Kendrick Perkins hook shots.

The Rockets then went on an absolute tear in the fourth quarter while former Rocket (and Oklahoma City Thunder coach) Scott Brooks was on the telecast, spending an awkwardly long amount of time talking about being fired. The Rockets outscored the Pelicans 40-13 behind some hot shooting from Jason Terry and Marcus Thornton.

Who cares if it was against players such as Bo McCalebb (it's OK to admit that you have absolutely no idea whether he is even an NBA player), it was just nice to see the Rockets hit some threes, play some defense, and use their athleticism in the open court. The Rockets blew the game open towards the end of the fourth quarter, ultimately winning 120-100.

A couple of other quick observations:

  • Montrezl Harrell had a couple of WOW moments, including a nice spin move in the post and several athletic plays in the open court.
  • James Harden (30 min), Ty Lawson (28 min) and Trevor Ariza (34 min!) seem to be playing more than expected. We already heard about Harden's ankle injury in the summer, but I still don't see any reason to play them that much, unless Kevin McHale wants to work on the team's chemistry.
  • I would be very surprised if Joshua Smith doesn't make the roster. He finished with 4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. He is a big body in the paint, can rebound, and has some skill in the post. Plus, with the amount of injuries in the front court, the Rockets can use all the depth they can afford. (Ed. Note: he is also averaging about a foul every 30 seconds)
  • Jason Terry finished with 8 points (hitting two threes) and looks like he can still contribute 10 minutes a game. Marcus Thornton also may have carved out some minutes in the rotation with a 16-point night, following up on his 13-point performance against the Magic and 17-point performance against the Heat so far this preseason. When he gets hot he can really provide a scoring punch off the bench.
  • Trevor Ariza looks A LOT more comfortable creating his own shot and driving to the rim. He finished with 18 points and 3 steals and was very active when on the floor.

The Rockets finally end the preseason with a game against the Spurs on Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. CT on NBA TV.