Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans

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Following a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Rockets head to New Orleans to play the Pelicans for the third time this season, leading the season series 2-0. The Rockets are now riding a three game win streak and have won seven of their last ten, sitting at 47-21 and third place in the West. The leader in points, assists and rebounds for the Rockets is James Harden, who produces 28.9 points, 11.3 assists and 8 rebounds per game. On the season the Rockets rank 2nd in offense, 12th in defense, and 3rd in net rating.

The Pelicans have struggled more than many expected after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, having won just three of their ten games he has appeared in. Now at 27-41 on the season and five and a half games out of the West's final playoff spot, the Pelicans will likely miss out on the postseason for their second straight season. The Pelicans are led in scoring and rebounding by Anthony Davis with 27.9 points and 11.8 rebounds, and in assists by Jrue Holiday, who dishes out 7.8 assists per game. The Pelicans currently rank 27th in offensive rating, 7th in defensive rating, and just 23rd in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets will likely continue to 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 to start the game, with competing Sixth Man of the Year candidates Eric Gordon and Lou Williams being the first guys off the bench.

After receiving a kick to the side in his last game, center DeMarcus Cousins did not return to the game, and it is unclear if he will be able to play against the Rockets on Friday. Assuming health, the Pelicans will likely start Jrue Holiday at point guard, one of Wayne Seldon and Hollis Thompson at shooting guard, Solomon Hill at small forward, Anthony Davis at power forward, and DeMarcus Cousins at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Firepower – When using Basketball References version of offensive rating, the Rockets are about tied for the highest offensive rating of all time. While many thought the Rockets would be great offensively, the degree to which they've succeeded on that end is mind boggling. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to keep up this high octane offense for the rest of the season.

  • Cleaning Up – Going into the All-Star break the Rockets were just 24th in the NBA at taking care of the basketball, but since the break, and the addition of Lou Williams, the Rockets are all the way up at 7th, doing a much better job at avoiding turnovers. Watch to see if this is a fluke or if the Rockets have cleaned up their game, helping increase the efficiency of the Rockets offense.

  • Season Series – The Rockets have won both of the two teams' previous match ups in convincing fashion, with the average margin of victory for them being an impressive 26 points. Watch to see if the Rockets keep up their dominance over their Southwest division rivals.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets are a much better team and the Pelicans may be entering tank mode, with their playoff chances getting smaller and smaller, so this is a game the Rockets should, and likely will, win big.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in New Orleans on Thursday, March 17th. The game will be televised on ROOTSPORTS with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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