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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans to face Houston Rockets, the hottest team in the NBA

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Houston has not lost since Chris Paul returned from injury nine games ago. Gulp!

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans (14-13) will play the Houston Rockets (20-4), home of the NBA’s winningest record at this point in the season on Monday evening. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

The tall order will be made even more difficult because the Pelicans will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and there is a decent chance Anthony Davis could be sidelined.

During New Orleans win against the Philadelphia 76ers, Davis was seen grimacing on several occasions and reaching for the same area of his recent left abductor strain injury. Although he played coy in postgame comments, claiming he didn’t recall limping around in the fourth quarter, Head Coach Alvin Gentry remarked Davis was removed late in the game because he wasn’t running at the same speed as he was at the start of the contest.

“Well he was and that’s why we took him out at the end of the game,” said Gentry. “There’s no reason to try and have him do something that might keep him out. The minute we saw him doing that, we took him out.”

Considering Davis was operating on a 25-minute restriction this past Friday, it’s not hard to imagine the Pelicans being careful and sitting him down Monday after playing 40 minutes on Sunday while displaying signs of discomfort.

Whether Davis plays may be of little consequence. The Houston Rockets have been good all season, but they’ve been simply unbeatable since Chris Paul returned to action, winning nine straight by an average score of 119.8 to 101.0.

CPIII remains one of the best players in the league, but it’d be criminal to fail to note what James Harden has accomplished thus far this season. One has to believe last season’s MVP runner-up is the early favorite for the 2018 award. Harden is leading the league in scoring (32.3 PPG) while dishing out 9.2 assists and grabbing 5.3 rebounds.

Three keys to victory

Score, execute and score some more. Teams have beaten the Rockets this season with good offense, not by slowing them down. When opponents have posted a 110 Offensive Rating or higher, the Rockets have a record of 3-3 in those games. So, Jrue Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins and E’Twaun Moore look to put up a lot of points, but please do so efficiently! :)

Throw the kitchen sink at James Harden, but more likely, pray for an off night. In Houston wins, the Beard has a shooting line of 48.4 FG% / 42.5 3P% / 87.6 FT%. In their four losses, Harden shoots 35.3 FG% / 28.6 3P% / 84.8 FT%.

Run them off the three-point line. I know, it’s probably mission impossible, but the Pelicans cannot allow the Rockets to comfortably attempt a million shots from behind the arc. In their four losses, the Rockets had the lower three-point percentage. Go ahead and give up some open drives to the rim if you have to, if it means preventing Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon from jacking up triples all night long.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets

Where: Toyota Center

When: December 11, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM