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NBA Preview: Pelicans welcome Rockets and MVP favorite James Harden one last time

Circle the wagons, the league’s hottest offense will be in town Friday.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Owners of the third best record in the NBA, the Houston Rockets roll into town Friday night, looking to demoralize the New Orleans Pelicans once more.

In their previous two encounters this season, Houston squashed New Orleans by a combined total of 52 points. In the teams’ 6th worst loss of the year, the Pelicans allowed the Rockets to make a record 24 three-point field goals on another record-breaking 61 attempts. Then coming out of the All-Star break, New Orleans suffered their 2nd worst margin of defeat as Lou Williams celebrated his first game in a Rockets uniform in style: notching 27 points and canning seven threes.

Houston is good, damn good, and it all obviously begins with James Harden. Mike D’Antoni’s decision to move The Beard to point guard has been a raging success as the 7-year pro is averaging 28.9 points, 11.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds a game. The 5.8 turnovers matter little when one of the leagues’ best scorers is getting to the line at over 10 times a contest while making more than a third of his nine three-point attempts and hitting open Rockets all night long with pinpoint passes.

It should come as no surprise then to learn that Harden appears to have the inside track for the 2017 Most Valuable Player Award.

Despite the fact that Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, the media is correct in my opinion that Harden is more deserving of the honor.

Since the All-Star weekend, the Rockets have been filthy, averaging a league-leading 121.3 points a game and converting 35.5% of their 45+ three-point attempts. Houston has the best offensive rating (117.4) during this span as well as the net rating (+12.1).

Honestly, if Kevin Durant doesn’t return from injury on fire and LaMarcus Aldridge heart scare isn’t well in the rear view mirror, it’s time to possibly accept the fact that Houston should be considered the favorite to emerge out of the Western Conference towards the end of May.

Meanwhile, back in the Crescent City, things are far from being sparkly. New Orleans has just 14 games remaining on the schedule and they sit a full six games behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th seed. Playoffs? Yeah, that idea’s history, so the only thing left to play for is trying to establish some future continuity.

The Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins era is off to a 4-7 record mainly due to an offense that borders on the worst in the league. (Pelicans have an ORTG of 99.7 while the Lakers are a smidge worse at 99.6.) That’s wholly unacceptable, even if a lot of the role players are ill-fitting.

Reportedly, Alvin Gentry is on the hot seat and you can bet Dell Demps isn’t feeling all that comfortable, too. No matter if the team has been healthy or not, whether they’ve had two all-world bigs in the lineup or not, New Orleans has failed to demonstrate anything above a .400 winning percentage since their playoff berth under Monty Williams two seasons ago.

The process isn’t allowed to be stuck in neutral forever. You’ve got 14 games left. Get it on the right track now or there can be no denying it’ll be time to bring in someone who will.

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Houston Rockets

Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA

When: 7:00 PM Central

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Root Sports Southwest, 99.5 FM WRNO