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Houston Rockets @ New Orleans Pelicans on 1/15/2014

The win against Boston was the first ‘good win’ the Rockets have had in quite a while. They kept the ball moving (most assists the team has registered since Christmas Day against the Spurs) and were able to generate the shots they wanted (Dwight Howard’s shot chart was a thing of beauty). The key now is sustaining that momentum and finishing off the road trip strongly against a depleted but nevertheless dangerous Pelicans team. And if they could somehow manage to do that and rest the starters for their first game back home that would be great, since they are going to be up against the Thunder tomorrow night.

Form:

Rockets: WWLWW

It’s heartening to see so many recent wins, but when you look at their opponents (The Lakers plus four Eastern Conference teams that aren’t Indiana or Miami) you realise that they were all games you would expect the Rockets to get the victory in. It’s the manner of the performances that count, and on that front things have been mixed. But for stretches of their last two games they’ve shown glimpses of the team all Rockets fans would like them to be.

Pelicans: LLLLL

Yikes. A combination of injuries and a fairly tough schedule has put the Pelicans into a tailspin. Their losing streak is 6 games, but there’s no shame in losing to Indiana, Miami or San Antonio. Back-to-back losses against Dallas are also understandable if not ideal, and the other team they’ve lost to in that stretch is Washington. A bad stretch, but this is their equivalent of our late-December period after all.

Injuries:

Rockets: Patrick Beverley is reportedly nearly recovered from his broken hand and should be back on the court in a week or so. Omer Asik’s knee problem continues unabated.

Pelicans: Now if there was a reason you wanted to write the Pelicans off, it would be this. Jrue Holiday (broken leg) and Ryan Anderson (herniated disc) are both out with no return timetable in place, which pretty much kills their hopes of a playoff berth this season. In addition, Tyreke Evans has missed the last few games with a sprained ankle, so they could potentially be missing three of their core players.

On Offence:

  • Last time the Rockets played the Pelicans there was some interesting cross-matching. Monty Williams put Anderson on Dwight and had Davis guard whoever was playing PF. In Anderson’s absence, Williams will probably pair Davis and Smith in the front-court and have Smith battle Howard in the post.
  • Against Boston the Rockets showed that they’ve really been working on their alley-oops. There’s going to be slightly more length around the basket in tonight’s game, but they should still be looking for this option often – it’s devastating and hard to stop when done properly.
  • Jones always plays well against Davis and should look to use his range to pull Davis away from the basket. The Brow causes too much havoc defensively to be allowed to camp out in the paint.
  • The Rockets’ perimeter players will have to think carefully about their tactics when driving into the lane. A key battle will be whether they can still get to the rim despite the presence of Davis.

On Defence:

  • Brian Roberts will be getting the start at Point Guard. He’s always been able to put up numbers if he gets the minutes, so he should not be underestimated despite being a step down from Jrue Holiday. Lin will need to be on alert tonight as Roberts fits the bill of one of the smaller guards that sometimes give him trouble.
  • Eric Gordon may quite not be playing up to the level of his max contract, but he can still be a dangerous player. He’s shooting 40% from the three point line this season and is excellent at getting into the lane. He actually shoots a greater percentage of his shots at the rim than Harden, if you can believe that. A lot of the offence will be running through him tonight, and it’s going to be up to Harden to slow him down – not the most appealing prospect for Rockets fans!

Rotation Spotlight:

Al-Farouq Aminu (6’9″ SF, Wake Forest)

Aminu was part of the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers, and was touted as a promising young player at the time. He’s an excellent rebounder though, and you should always keep an eye out for him on the break as you can guarantee he’ll be flying up the court if the Pelicans are off and running. He’s got the physical tools to be a good defender, though he does suffer from lapses from time to time. Unfortunately, his inability to shoot has put a low ceiling on his usefulness. . You get the feeling that if he could just add a jumper he would be held in much higher esteem by GMs around the league.

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