Thankfully, December is in the rear view mirror, but before the Pelicans get to finally enjoy the easier part of the schedule, they must first get through three difficult opponents at home in their next four games. First up, the Rockets will be in town on Friday; however, they're a bit different than the team we beat 99-90 just two weeks ago.
On December 26th, Houston signed the recently Detroit-waived Josh Smith for bi-annual bargain price of around $2 million. Terrence Jones hasn't played since the first four games of the season and remains without a timetable to return.
So far, the reviews on Smith have been mixed. The Rockets have gone 2-2 with him, and individually he is averaging 8.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and .8 blocks. He's been limited to 26.8 minutes a contest, likely because of his continuing inefficiency: 34.1 FG%, 45.5 FT% and 2.8 turnovers.
At the very least, Smith will provide the Rockets with additional versatility. Donatas Motiejunas isn't nearly the defender Smith is, and considering all the talented power forwards in the Western Conference, Smith should prove to strengthen their team defense.
In our last meeting, Anthony Davis went for 30 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 blocks and 2 steals. Last year, in his lone game against the Pistons (and Josh Smith), AD had a very pedestrian scoring line of 14 points in 39 minutes of action. Daryl Morey saw a gaping hole and is hoping Smith, even with all of his baggage, can help fill it.
3 Keys to Victory
Since the concepts still remain the same from 16 days ago, refer to that preview for an in-depth game plan against the Rockets.
Instead, let's take a quick look at how the Rockets compare in their wins versus losses.
While it's usually a given teams shoot markedly better or turn the ball over less in wins, it's interesting to view the notably differences in the "aggressive" categories within their losses. Both free throw rate and offensive rebounds are decidedly down. Looking deeper, points in the paint, fast break points, points off turnovers and second chance points drop too.
It sounds cliche, but removing a few things from the Rockets plan of attack is vital. It's boom or bust as the Rockets only enjoy living at the three point line or inside the paint. Getting to the foul line and attacking the glass are their priorities. Making any of these facets difficult to accomplish for the Rockets, such as limiting James Harden's charity stripe trips, will significantly hurt their offensive output, and thus their chances for a win.
Don't forget to stop by The Dream Shake if you have the time. Geaux Pellies!