After a 15-game losing streak that seemed destined the tank their season before the calendar even flipped, the Houston Rockets have improbably, and against all odds, reeling off five straight wins to own the longest active win streak in the NBA.
Yes, four of those games have come at home, and three have come against the dregs of the league. Two of them were against a team that turned around and lost by 73 points after Houston beat them. But as Stephen Silas lost Jalen Green to injury and went to one-big lineups by phasing out Daniel Theis (who gave Houston good minutes in OKC, mind you), the Rockets seem to be a new team. The pieces seem to fit really well right now. How will they fit when Green returns and gets minutes? That’s to be determined.
The Pelicans are 7-18 and coming off a double-digit win in Dallas. The Pels have two wins over the Clippers and a win against Utah. And they have done it without Zion Williamson, who is still recovering from foot surgery that he got in the offseason. In his stead, New Orleans has turned to Jonas Valanciunas and the big man has delivered. He’s taking the second-most shots per game he’s ever taken in a season, and is doubling his previous 3PA high from a couple seasons ago. Zion’s absence has also opened the door for Devonte’ Graham (traded for in the offseason), Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and rookie Herbert Jones to get more time and opportunities. Josh Hart, Garrett Temple, and Willy Hernangomez round out the main rotation players.
Obviously, New Orleans leans most heavily on star Brandon Ingram. The 24-year-old is seeing his numbers go down with increased usage, which we’ve seen time and time again. Ingram’s ability to take the next step is key to New Orleans’s journey to becoming a playoff team. The comparisons to Kevin Durant were always going to be premature, but there are flashes of Ingram’s game that let you know that the forward is the real deal. The responsibility for stopping him will probably fall on Jae’Sean Tate’s shoulders (as so much does with the Rockets). That’s going to be a great battle.
Kevin Porter Jr. did not practice yesterday and is doubtful for tonight’s contest. Jalen Green is still out and does not have a timetable to return yet. Hart missed Friday’s game for New Orleans. He’s day-to-day with knee soreness.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest