New Orleans Pelicans Host Houston Rockets

The New Orleans Pelicans (9-20) host the Houston Rockets (16-15) tonight with both teams on the second game of a back-to-back. The Pelicans lost yesterday afternoon in overtime at Miami, while the Rockets played at home against the Spurs, holding on for a victory against the strong, veteran team. The game tips just after 6 pm CT (UTC -6), and is on NBA TV, Fox Sports New Orleans, and the Pelicans Radio Network, 99.5 FM locally.

The Pelicans should start their restricted-Holiday lineup of Davis, Evans, Gordon, Gee, and Asik. There have been no reported changes to the injury report, but Gentry’s comments yesterday could mean anything with respect to a potential depth chart change. Though it could mean anything, it likely was directed at Evans, who continues to show no-or-not-enough improvement in his team play. There is no question about Evans’ abilities. It’s simply a matter as to whether he will conform to a system where he is not the key cog. This is why he is much better on a second unit where he can be the captain of the ship.

At any rate, the Rockets will likely start, Howard, Harden, Capela, Ariza, and Beverly.

The Rockets rely on getting to the line and offensive rebounds. Though they take a large number of threes, their make rate is such that their true shooting percentage is about even with the Pelicans. In fact, in many respects their offensive output is very similar to that of the Pelicans. Both teams operate at a high pace.

Since the Rockets rely on free throws so much, the Pelicans can not let them get to the line at the rate to which they have become accustomed. While Howard does get the second most free throws on the team, Harden shoots over one-third of them for the Rockets, and he’s killer. In this game, perimeter defense, particularly without fouling, will be key. In their last meeting, the Pelicans managed to keep it close, losing by 7. In that game, the Pelicans did well enough on the glass to keep Houston’s offensive rebound rate down, but the free throw attempts greatly favored Houston, 39-25. Howard only took 8 of those free throws, and it’s not like he shoots 0%.

The Rockets generate turnovers and give them up, so the Pelicans need to protect the ball and not be baited into cheap points off turnovers that they don’t really cash in that well that are also likely to send the Rockets to the line for cheaper points.

So, in some sense, the Pelicans poor defense is a little less costly here as long as they keep their hands to themselves. Rather, the Pelicans need to be aggressive on offense. The Rockets’ defense is poor, and they are known to take plays off here and there, despite having some players that are very pesky of defense.

Calling back to the above, Davis is always the key, but they really need a good game from Evans. If Gordon can penetrate, all the better. Every minute Holiday can help is needed.

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