I must say – I feel pretty bad for all the Pelicans fans out there. Since the news of AD’s trade demand broke yesterday, they’ve had to endure unending NBA Twitter commentary, fake trades, and memes all while wondering why things had to turn out this way. Not only have they possibly seen Anthony Davis in a Pelicans jersey for the last time, but this will also mark the second time this decade that the franchise will be losing a transcendent NBA player. (Check out our Red94 roundtable for additional perspective and context on all things AD)
With all that said, I’m glad the Rockets are playing the Pelicans tonight. With AD, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle all out tonight, the Rockets have a golden opportunity to continue Chris Paul’s integration into the lineup, and manage his workload with minimal risk. As Red Nation gears up for tonight’s game, here are a couple key things to look out for:
- James Harden’s usage rate has steadily climbed (understandably) as the season has worn on: 32% in October, 37% in November, 39% in December, and a whopping 44% in January. While this has produced spectacular results, there needs to be some sharing of playmaking duties if the Rockets are going to achieve what they want to achieve this season. As mentioned, look for the Rockets to use this game to help Chris continue to get his legs back. CP3 was active and engaged on both ends of the floor against the Magic, highlighted by his back-to-back triples in the fourth quarter, but the Rockets need for him to take some of the playmaking burden off of Harden’s shoulders as the playoffs approach. I expect D’Antoni to revert to last year’s form and make a concerted effort to stagger Harden and CP3’s minutes tonight.
- To say that Kenneth Faried has been a revelation would be a massive understatement. In four games with the Rockets, Faried is putting up per-36-minute averages of 14/10 while playing 31 minutes per night. Put in context, Clint Capela was essentially playing at an All-Star level while putting up per-36-minute averages of 18/13 in 35 minutes per night. While Faried doesn’t match up to Clint in terms of rim protection, general team defense, and finishing around the rim, he makes up for it with undying effort and has all the looks of a real playoff contributor – the entire Rockets front office deserves credit for this one. Down their entire frontcourt, the Pelicans have been throwing none other than Jahlil Okafor out there as their starting big man. Yikes. Look for Faried to run, hustle, and really have his way tonight. I’m putting the over/under at 5 Kenneth Faried dunks and am hammering the over.
Simply put, the Rockets should control the game from start to finish. Vegas has the Rockets as 11-point favorites – look for them to cover.
Prediction – Rockets 117 Pelicans 95