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Houston Rockets clip New Orleans Pelicans for the win, 123-117

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Though, the Rockets needed to play their starters a full allotment of minutes to secure the victory.

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans suffered a narrow loss to the Houston Rockets halfway around the world early Sunday morning, 123-117. With the game taking place in Shanghai, China, the game tipped off at 6:30am local time. Fortunately those needing some help waking up witnessed a caffeine-induced pace for the entire game, with both offenses shining and defenses hiding.

The Pelicans led late in the fourth quarter, 116-112 with 3 minutes remaining, but failed to hold on for the win. One doesn’t need to look any further than the box score. Four of the Rockets starters played 30 minutes or more, including James Harden with 36. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis logged a mere 23 minutes, and none of the Pelicans starters eclipsed the 30-minute barrier. Houston may have officially notched the win, but a different outcome likely would have resulted if the minutes disparity had been reduced.

E’Twaun Moore led the Pelicans with 25 points, making 2/3’s of his shot attempts that included a perfect 4-4 from the three-point line. Despite the limited minutes, Davis had 23 points and his ultra-aggressive play earned him a trip to the foul line 11 times. (In all, the Pelicans went to the free throw line 38 times.) Omer Asik posted a double-double, scoring 14 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

Terrence Jones, Alexis Ajinca, Robert Sacre and Shawn Dawson — all listed on the injury report — did not play. Quinn Cook and Cheick Diallo also failed to get into the game.

What I watched:

  1. Asik at center
  2. Former Pels Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson starting for Houston
  3. Rebounding

Asik

My Twitter feed didn’t mean to become an anti-Asik screed, but when comparing him to Houston’s Clint Capela, assuming the lead big man role for Houston post-Dwight Howard, I know who I’d rather have.

Asik actually finished with a real nice little Sunday morning stat line: 14 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. “Hey, great,” you say! Welp, there’s a few clips of video I posted on Twitter that bring up some problems and numerous other times when Asik looked Asick. Just take a look. He was also a -13 for the game (yes, I know +/- in a single game tells us almost nothing scientific, but he seemed to get abused, especially early).

Note: I’m new to The Bird Writes and don’t want to immediately become “that anti-Asik” guy, but his mistakes are just so sad, frustrating and funny. Generally, I think he’s the best option to start at center this year.

We’ve seen this before. He has bad hands, I get it. But sheesh.

We’ve seen this before. He has no athleticism, I get it. Dang.

Lack of player, ball, and court awareness? A little more worrying. Would like to hear from the coaches on this - as Mason Ginsberg pointed out, it may have been more of an “overall team” lapse. But Capela does all his work down low and had already finished a handful of alleyoops before this play.

I feel like the Pels have to play Asik despite his weaknesses. We’ll just have to wait and see how he does, especially if this team struggles to start the year.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson

So, that happened. Gordon finished the game with 24 points (5 3-pointers) in 30 decent minutes (1 assist, 3 turnovers). With Harden as the nominal “point guard,” Gordon will have plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities this year, especially from 3. Harden finished with 15(!) assists and 8(!) turnovers, which is indicative of how this offense has worked and will continue to work. Ryan Anderson had 21 points (4 3-pointers) and was seen working in the high-post, Dirk Nowitzki real estate.

These two guys may have felt like they had something to prove against their former teammates - I wouldn’t expect them to go for 45 combined points more than a couple times this year - but they will be out there to shoot. A simplified role with lowered expectations from the Finishing 5 days might help them.

Rebounding/interior

The Rockets had 4 offensive rebounds in the first 6:27, but were slowed down after that due to a) them making shots and b) turnovers. The first couple of possessions when Asik was removed for Lance Stephenson (making AD the 5) ended in an offensive rebound for Nene, which led to a jumper, and a simple pick-and-roll with Harden dishing to Nene for a lightly-contested layup. Timeout.

The rebounding numbers finished essentially even (Pelicans 46, Rockets 45) but in the first quarter, which heavily featured starters and key role players for both teams, the Rockets grabbed 5 offensive rebounds out of their 13 misses.

Generally, things went better in the second half. The ball moved more, Asik played much better and the Rockets didn’t grab every board available.

Other notes:

Didn’t mention Davis much, but watching him take all the shots is definitely something to track as we get closer to Game 1. He does a lot of work for himself — he’s got floaters, jumpers, faceups, drives, hesitations, 3s, hooks, cans of worms, double stuffs, Yosemite Sams and rattlesnake catapults (okay, I made up those last 4), but can he add a little more playmaking, please? It’s a lot to ask, I know.

E’Twaun Moore was the story, but he’s also not a playmaker. If the ball gets swung to him for a corner 3, great; but how can the ball even get that far? Lance dances? Frazier sprints to the hoop? This team needs some shimmy.

Where do you fall in the James Harden greatness argument? Is he a savior or a sinner? I love his game and think he catches too much flack for bad/below average defense. His offensive game is so diverse and skilled; he’s a pleasure to watch.

Buddy Buckets can play! He’s got basic dribbling and passing skills and is a fighter on defense. Like most rookies, he might over-foul, but he’ll help this team this year. Nice!

Well, he fell asleep here. Also, KJ McDaniels has dumb hops.

Did anybody get hurt? Nope, although it wasn’t fun seeing Terrence Jones, Alexis Ajinca and several others unexpectedly on the injury list.

NAP TIME!

Thanks for reading.