Let me just start this off by saying, I HATE THE HOUSTON ROCKETS!
It’s not an Atlanta Falcons style of hatred, where I simply hate you for existing, no, this hate is earned. The Rockets play a painfully methodical, repetitive and boring brand of offense despite being one of the highest scoring teams in the association. Of course, it’s not their fault, they found a glitch in the game and are exploiting it with the help of the NBA’s comically inaccurate referees. Sigh, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to the regularly scheduled programming.
The Pelicans (39-30) narrowly lost to the irritating Houston Rockets (55-14) by a 107-101 margin. New Orleans was largely able to hang around for most of the night due to their defense effort and solid contributions from several roles players, most notably Ian Clark who finished the game with 17 points. Clark was very aggressive offensively and surprisingly tough on the defensive end. This continues a strong recent stretch off the bench for Clark, and the Pelicans will definitely need him to continue this level of aggression down the stretch.
The Rockets made it obvious that they were not going to let Anthony Davis beat them following his first quarter 12-point explosion. Houston started sending barrages of double and triple teams at Davis, rarely giving him any space. One positive is that Davis is becoming much better at handling these double teams and finding teammates — despite the 36 minutes of hounding Davis only had two turnovers. That’s not to say he’s great out of double coverages yet because the disruptions killed the Pelicans offensive flow at times. However, in true super dupper star fashion, Davis somehow still quietly put in 26 points and 13 rebounds on 11-18 shooting. (Damn he’s good!)
After finishing the first half with a 60-54 deficit, the second half saw the return of the Pelicans formerly vanquished third quarter woes. The teams defense wasn’t all that bad, surrendering 24 points in the frame, however the game began to get away from the Pelicans as Davis disappeared and the team was completely discombobulated offensively, scoring only 18 painful points.
The number one objective in any game against the Rockets is to always keep James Harden off the free throw line. The Pelicans largely succeeded in this area surrendering “only” eight free throw attempts, which is two attempts below his season average. However, Harden was able to draw some timely free throws, including a swing through three-point attempt which extended the Rockets lead as the Pelicans where clawing back into the game. Yeah, you remember, the bullshit whistle that led to Head Coach Alvin Gentry picking up a technical foul and then later leading to his famous postgame rant.
It’s not that the refs were calling too many fouls tonight, actually quite the contrary. The Pelicans could barely get a call.
- Despite getting mugged all night by the likes of Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker, Anthony Davis finished the game with only four free throw attempts.
- Jrue Holiday , who finished with a heroic line of 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds, was fouled so hard on one play that he had to go to the locker room and get stitches above his eye — and of course nothing was called.
- With the Pelicans down four and making a late charge in the fourth quarter, Tucker legitimately ankle tackled Ian Clark in a very dangerous play while both players were scrambling for the loose ball. Instead of a foul, the referees called out of bounds on Clark and essentially ended the game.
After their magical 10-game win streak, the Pelicans have now dropped four of their last five games. They play again tomorrow night in an increasingly important game against the depleted Boston Celtics. Let’s hope they can stop the bleeding.
- Darius Miller had solid game scoring 13 points on 4-7 shooting (4-6 from 3pt land). Miller helped spark a comeback for the Pelicans early in the 4th quarter.
- Usual point guard Rajon Rondo was given a veterans night of rest. Houston isn’t a great matchup for Rondo anyway, which I’m guessing is why Gentry decided to rest him tonight rather than another game; however, Rondo’s play-making and tempo pushing were sorely missed as the Pelicans had to create more offense than usual in the half court.
- Cheick Diallo stoked the fires of our budding bromance with more solid play. The best moment in this game was when Diallo faced off head-to-head at the rim against a driving James Harden. He went up clean and emphatically blocked Harden’s shot. Following the shot, Diallo taunted Harden by doing Harden’s patented “eating” celebration and my heart melted. This kid is going to be a MAJOR factor for the Pelicans in 2019 and I can’t wait.
- Nikola Mirotic continues to struggle with his shot. Niko was 1-5 from three and 2-7 overall in 24 mostly ineffective minutes. It’s tougher than folks think to get comfortable with a new team, but New Orleans is going to need much more from Mirotic if they expect to make the playoffs. I think there is hope still that better days ahead for Niko.