5 Observations from Rockets-Pelicans



The Houston Rockets survived their third preseason game, edging out a 123-117 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Shanghai, China. The game was up and down, with each team scoring 30 or more in three of four quarters. Anthony Davis picked up his 5th foul in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game after that. James Harden looked to be an early exit as well, but he and Trevor Ariza checked back into the game with about six minutes left. Mike D'Antoni said he wanted to experiment with late game situations, thus 4 of 5 starters played down the stretch.

Here are five observations from this morning's game:

  1. James Harden may be more of an MVP threat than you even thought.


James Harden finished the game with 26 points, 15 assists, and 7 rebounds. Through three quarters, Harden had 11 of those assists. The Beard routinely made difficult passes look incredibly easy. However, he also had 8 turnovers, several of which came from drive-and-dish situations in the paint. Over the course of this season, Harden will get more and more comfortable with his new role and should be able to cut down those numbers. If he converted half of those turnovers into assists, he would be pushing 20 assists. Harden could average a double-double this season, as he currently is averaging 23 points and 12 assists in the preseason.

2. The added scoring of new additions makes life easier for role-players.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson have already shown that they are going to light up the scoreboard in this offense. Anderson has been over 50% from three the last two games and Gordon is over 50% overall. Harden, Anderson, and Gordon were all over 20 points in this game, which is something that didn't happen last season. James Harden scored 2376 total points last season. The next closest teammate was Trevor Ariza with 1025 points... The additions of Gordon and Anderson are going to make guys like Ariza go back to their natural roles. You're going to see better defense and rejuvenated energy from the Rockets' role-players because they're not going to be asked to do so much on the offensive end.

3. KJ McDaniels and Corey Brewer are CHAOS.

KJ McDaniels finished this game with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 20 minutes. While Corey Brewer's stat line wasn't that impressive (4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists), he was all over the court on both ends of the floor and consistently in passing lanes. In his last 2 games, KJ McDaniels shot 7/13 overall, averaging 10 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. Corey Brewer has been a Swiss Army Knife, contributing assists, steals, blocks, and rebounds. Back to point 2, the relieved pressure from Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson has allowed McDaniels and Brewer to play loose and free in a run-and-gun offense.

4. The Rockets' front-court is a committee.

Nene Hilario fouled out of this game in the third quarter with 11 points (on 5/7 shooting) and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes. Clint Capela notched 12 points and 7 rebounds on 6/9 shooting in 20 minutes. Ryan Anderson had 21 points on 7/14 shooting and 5 rebounds in 38 minutes. If you're counting, that adds up to 44 points and 17 rebounds on 18/30 shooting from the Rockets' front court. When you lose a guy like Dwight Howard, who can grab double-digit rebounds nearly every night, you have to make up for it by putting a lot of guys in that do a little bit of everything. This will be the story for the Rockets big men this season. If Donatas Motiejunas doesn't sign, you may see Montrezl Harrell play some meaningful minutes at times. Given Nene's injury history, the depth at the 5 spot could be an issue later in the season.

5. Defense is a legitimate concern.

The Pelicans routinely got out in transition against the Rockets in this game, and when the Rockets did get back, the rim protection was nowhere to be found. Part of this is going to be James Harden getting used to his role as the point guard and being the first person back on defense, but the big men of Houston were ineffective at blocking, or even contesting shots at the rim. There were also lapses from the wings that led to wide open three point shots for the Pelicans. One play in particular, Eric Gordon gets lost on a screen and both he and Clint Capela are guarding Anthony Davis at 18 feet from the basket, while Gordon's man is wide open on the opposite wing. There will be games where the offense has to keep the Rockets alive due to defensive ineptitude.

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