First off, major thanks to Max for taking the Pelicans preview. It's much appreciated.
A month, this game looked terrifying. Back-to-back. On the road. Against a surging Hornets team that was being especially stingy on defense. It loomed at the end of the schedule in the same way that the Utah game now does. Except the Hornets were going to have something to play for in their game.
Now, it's a whole different story. Charlotte is on a 4-game losing streak and only have two wins in their last seven games. Al Jefferson is likely shut down for the season (now watch him come back tonight after I said that), which is a huge boost for a Rockets squad that will be missing their own starting center in Dwight Howard.
On the plus side for Houston, it's a back-to-back for both teams. The minus side is that it's the last home game of the season for Charlotte, so the building could be packed with fans hoping to see one last win.
The story for Houston is the same as it was last night. This game is a must-win. If the Rockets lose this game and Memphis and the Clippers win, they will be locked into the sixth seed. If they win, they will put pressure on those teams to win their last games. It's starting to look bleak for Houston's chances of hosting a first round series though.
Tip off is at 6pm CST.
Point Guard: Propeller Plane vs. Kemba Walker
Look, I know and you know that the Rockets don't have a point guard that can stay in front of Walker. The only guys Houston can count on to defend Kardiac Kemba are Brewer and Ariza.
This should be as one-sided as it gets, and Charlotte should exploit this matchup for 48 minutes if they're gunning for this win.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Gerald Henderson
I'm crushed for Harden that those two losses to the Spurs probably ended his MVP campaign. No one wanted to give it to him, but back-to-back losses to the class of the West just gave everyone the excuse they've been waiting for.
Now Houston needs Harden. He was huge in the third quarter against the Pelicans and for the first time in the history of ever, the Rockets' starting fourth quarter crew actually built and sustained a lead without him. McHale was able to give him his 6 minutes of rest as opposed to the "Oh well they went on a 8-0 run on us in 12 seconds so we need you James" that Houston usually tries.
I like this new method better.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Jeff Taylor
Jeff Taylor, not to be confused with the great Jermaine Taylor, had 10 points and 2 rebounds against the Pistons last night.
I don't know anything about his game, so if there are any fans out there please speak up. Yay for community discussion!
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Marvin Williams
The Jones Corollary comes into effect tonight against Williams.
Williams' backup Noah Vonleh reminds me a lot of a younger Terrence Jones though. Wiry, athletic, and awkward with the ball. Vonleh dropped career highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds last night so maybe his future could be as bright as Terrence's. That should be a fun matchup if it happens.
Center: Joey Dorsey vs. Bismack Biyombo
As of right now, there are two things you need to know about Biyombo.
1. He always blocks a bunch of shots against the Rockets.
2. Zach Lowe recently called him out:
Biyombo has earned his punch-line reputation as perhaps the NBA's least competent offensive player. He has one move: Catch the ball near the rim and dunk.
That alone means he's guaranteed to have a great game against the Rockets. I expect him to pop a triple, hit a couple of contested long 2s, and maybe block two shots with his foot.
Rockets: Corey Brewer, Pablo Prigioni, Josh Smith
Hornets: Noah Vonleh, Jason Maxiell, Brian Roberts, Troy Daniels, P.J. Hairston
Advantage: TROY DANIELS REVENGE GAME!
Prediction: Rockets win because they must.
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