Published: December 28, 2013
Who’s ready for a shootout? Well, if you are hoping for a Pelicans victory, then you better be because you don’t beat the Rockets 95-91 in Houston. They put up points in bunches, even on off nights. Take their last game against Memphis, for example. James Harden goes 2 for 9, the Grizzlies brought the pace of a game to a screeching halt, and Dwight Howard only plays 18 minutes because of foul trouble and the Rockets still scored 100 points. They were terrible from three that night (5-24), so they just kept attacking and got to the free throw line 40 times. Point blank, this team scores and there is nothing you can do about it.
The good news is that their defense is often as bad as their offense is good. They don’t force turnovers (29th in the league) and they have a tough time controlling the boards (21st). James Hrden plays defense like a Matador and Jeremy Lin gets lost on that end quite a bit. Their only plus perimeter defender, Patrick Beverly, is out with a broken right hand, and Asik, their best interior defender, is out as well.
If we’re being honest, this will be a very difficult game for the Pelicans to win on the second night of a back-to-back. They will likely be without Eric Gordon and Jason Smith again, and it is much harder for role players like Darius Miller to play well on the road than it is at home. For the Pelicans to win this one, the following will have to happen:
1. Defend Howard One-on-One in the Post
Since the Pelicans lack a big with strength, logic says that they will have to double Dwight Howard, but the numbers say different. Dwight Howard only averages .7 ppp in the post. Meanwhile, the Rockets average 1.2 ppp on spot-up jump shots. Doubling Howard in the post gets the Rockets shooters open looks. I say, play Howard the way you played Cousins just a few days ago – man up and let him try to beat you down there. When he gets good position, send him to the free throw line. That results in .57 ppp. If Howard goes off for 35, fine. It will take him more possessions to get there than it will for shooters like Parsons and Harden.
2. Play Davis and Ajinca together 15+ minutes
Against the Rockets, you need rim protection. Ajinca can defend Howard straight up and use hard fouls when he needs to, while Davis can roam and get weakside (and even some perimeter) blocks. These two also give the Pelicans the opportunity to control the offensive boards. The more possessions, the better chance to beat this offensive juggernaut.
3. Put Holiday in the Post
Jeremy Lin has been terrific this year scoring around the rim, but he is still a major defensive liability. And with Patrick Beverly out, the Rockets have had to lean on Aaron Brooks for backup minutes. Brooks is a bit hobbled with an ankle injury, and is far less dangerous than Lin even when healthy. By putting Holiday in the post, the Pelicans can get easy points, either from Holiday or off double teams. And, chances are that they can get Lin in foul trouble as well. The Rockets only like to play 7 or 8 guys in their rotation, so if you can get deeper into their rotation, it gets them out of their comfort zone.