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Pelicans try to get back in the holiday spirit with a win at home against the Rockets

No time for a hangover as the Houston Rockets visit the Crescent City

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis had a superb first half in his Christmas debut but the New Orleans Pelicans were unable to leave Miami with a victory. Thanks to an early tip the team probably got back into the Crescent City at a decent hour and hopefully got some good sleep after the overtime affair. Davis led the team with 50 minutes trailed by Eric Gordon (43) and Ryan Anderson (37). Houston had a much later night; their tip-off against the Houston Rockets was nearly five and a half hours after the Pelicans game had ended.

Like their last matchup the Pelicans are playing on the second night of a back-to-back. That game New Orleans lost 108-101 thanks in part to some terrible shooting by Norris Cole (2-10) and Tyreke Evans (2-9). Jrue Holiday, as part of his stress reaction protocol, did not play the second night of the back-to-back. Ty Lawson had a field day off the bench while James Harden poured in 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Houston scored 50 points in the paint, made another 28 free throws (on 39 attempts), and chipped in another 24 behind the arc. That's right, just SIX points came from mid-range for the Rockets.

Can the Pelicans bounce back from a poor performance on Christmas Day? Will the home crowd help propel them to victory?

Keys to Victory

Defend the Rim: 31% of opponent points (966/3105) come in the restricted area for the New Orleans defense. That's actually an improvement from last year's horrendous 37% (2988/8082) but still pretty bad. Houston makes a living attacking the basket led by James Harden. Keeping Harden out of the paint is an impossible task. Rotating to make those forays into a thicket of arms (without unnecessarily reaching or fouling) is critical.

Going along with rotating, the Pelicans are terrible at helping the helper. Omer Asik or Kendrick Perkins will slide over to cut off a driving lane and easy dump-offs lead to layups because the second defender fails to recognize their responsibility and function as nothing more than a spectator.

What's the play?: There is nothing more infuriating about watching this team lately than the shrugs and pointing as the shot clock wastes away. Who should be standing where? Is this a pin-down for Anthony Davis or just an opportunity to stand close to one another in overtime?

I know Alvin Gentry is just getting this team together after losing nearly the entire training camp. Errors like that have been going on for this franchise for years. No wonder Monty Williams wanted to so much control over this team, he couldn't trust them to think on their feet.

Box Out: Watching and waiting for the rebound is a cardinal sin in basketball. Find an opponent and box them out. Stuff like this turns into points too often as Pelicans are content to stare at the rim rather than box out.

In a game that the Pelicans lost by just six points and went to overtime handing the Heat easy ones is the line between a win and a loss. That's not scheme, that's not coaching, and that's not illness. It's effort and understanding.

What: Pelicans vs Rockets

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: 6:00 PM

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, NBA TV, WRNO (99.5 FM)

Opponent Blog: The Dream Shake