Rockets 130, Pelicans 123 - Best Not Miss

The New Orleans Pelicans entered Toyota Center missing Anthony Davis and labeled massive underdogs. The Houston Rockets were on a nine game tear, all but one of those a double-digit win. The Pelicans had nothing to lose and no reason to hold back. For the majority of the game, they played with the looseness and abandon fitting a team in their position. They had a real shot at the team with the best record, longest win streak, and MVP frontrunner. They did the impossible and got the Rockets dead in their sights.

But if you come at the king, you best not miss. They learned this the hard way tonight.The Pelicans didn't miss, not for a long time. They opened up the game 14-18 from three point range, E'Twaun Moore starting out 6-6 from deep on the way to a career high 36 points. Jrue Holiday took over and shot 16-21 to rack up 37 points. DeMarcus Cousins was going full speed, trying to will his team to victory with 14 boards and 24 points on 17 shots. They were hitting over 60% of their threes and had a double digit lead in the third quarter. It was their game to lose, against the hottest team in the league. It was insufficient.

Eventually, for one moment, their hot streak stalled. Eventually, they missed. Eventually, like every other team James Harden and Chris Paul have faced together, they lost.

The Rockets are a nightmare. Even when you have them by the throat late in the game, you discover that they have another gear and you have now lost by seven points. Like all the best teams, they feel unfair. Their defensive metrics took a hit tonight. They easily made up for it by outscoring a blazing hot team with an offensive performance that honestly could have been much better. There is, so far, no stopping this train. Let's look at just a few of the unbelievable elements of their box score.

Clint Capela, current lord of the lob dunk, lorded the lob dunk over the Pelicans. He was 13-14 from the field, and that is not a typo. Add in a pair of free throws, and he scored 28 points in this game, somehow surpassing Cousins. Eric Gordon remembered how to shoot and did so gleefully, burying 5-6 three pointers on the way to 27 points himself. A sniping Eric is an utter disaster for opposing teams.

Chris Paul only had 6 assists on a night with so many buckets, but his 9 rebounds and 20 points were huge as he led the Rockets back to a lead in the fourth quarter. Most of their comebacks are predicated on his total domination of opposing bench units, and this was no different. The Rockets have nine starter-quality players, and any four of them can be shaped into a deadly weapon by Paul. The Rockets bench had 38 points. The Pelicans managed 3.

James Harden remains the heart and soul of this team, and it was by his hand that the final two daggers were thrown. He hit a three in Cousins' eye and then stole the ball the next time down, leading to the game-sealing free throws in the final seconds. Harden may only have scored 20 points, but he did it with 4-10 shooting on three pointers and he racked up an amazing 17 assists. He was on a mission to get his teammates buckets, and he did so continuously. He and Paul accounted for 23 assists, which is more than 19 teams in the league average per game. James Harden is not though making fresh cases for MVP, and won't stop any time soon.

The Rockets absorbed the best offensive game the Pelicans are likely to have all season, if not longer. They took another double-digit lead and erased it in mere minutes. The Pelicans had good reason to believe they had a shot at the Rockets. The only problem was that they had to hit every single one of their shots to do it. Eventually, they missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment