Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs. New Orleans Pelicans

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The Rockets are back! After a week off for the all star break the Rockets get ready to face the Pelicans to start off the last stretch of the season. The Rockets are currently 3rd in the West and 40-18 on the season. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 29.2 points, 11.3 assists, and  8.3 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 2nd in offensive rating, 14th in defensive rating, and 3rd in net rating.

The new look Pelicans (more on that later) come into town at 23-24, and 11th in the West, desperate to close the 2.5 game gap between they and the 8th seeded Nuggets. The Pelicans are led in scoring and rebounding by Anthony Davis, at 27.7 points and 12 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday leads them in assists at 7.5 per game. The Pelicans rank 27th in offensive rating, 8th in defensive rating, and 22nd in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets are all rested up, and barring any late deadline shakeups, will likely continue start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The trade deadline madness kicked off with the Pelicans snatching superstar center, DeMarcus Cousins, along with Omri Caspi, from the Kings. While Cousins' debut will be made on Thursday, Omri Caspi will be out with a calf injury. The Pelicans will start the game with Jrue Holiday at point guard, E'Twaun Moore at shooting guard, Soloman Hill at small forward, Anthony Davis at power forward, and DeMarcus Cousins at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Goodbye Brewer – To no ones surprise, Morey pulled off a move near the deadline, shipping Brewer and a first rounder away for super sixth man, now seventh man, Lou Williams. Although Lou likely won't be able to make his Rockets debut on Thursday, we will get to see how the rotations change with Brewer gone, or any other pieces Morey moves by Thursday afternoons deadline.

  • "Fire And Ice" – The Rockets are lucky enough to be the first team to get a close up look at the new super front court of Brow and Boogie, who decided to call themselves Fire and Ice (lame, I know). Watch to see how these two dominate big man mesh together in their first game, and how the Rockets try to stop that deadly combo.

  • More Trade Deadline Shenanigans? – Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (if you're not following him on twitter, how dare you: @WojVerticalNBA) reported Wednesday morning that the Rockets are hoping to get another deal done before the deadline, just hours before Thursday's game. Watch to see what names come up in rumors, and if the Rockets are able to make another deal to bolster the roster as they head into the playoffs.

Prediction and Tip-Off

Even with the Pelicans new front court the Rockets are the better team, and have better chemistry than their shaken up opponents. I expect the Rockets to win, and match last seasons win total, at 41.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in New Orleans on Thursday, February 23rd. The game will be televised on ROOTSPORTS with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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