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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans look to avenge close loss to Houston Rockets

Lonzo Ball is out but Alvin Gentry will have Jrue Holiday for this matchup.

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There’s a long living quite that reads: “Victory belongs to the most persevering.”

The New Orleans Pelicans (2-7) will come into their Monday matchup with the Houston Rockets (6-3) knowing exactly what Napoleon Bonaparte meant. After a comeback victory in which they trailed by double digits and committed 26 turnovers, the Pelicans rallied together on both sides of the floor and put together a strong fourth quarter against the Hornets, leaving Charlotte with their second win of the season.

If New Orleans wants to win their third, it won’t be easy.

The Houston Rockets have won three straight and it’ll mark the second matchup between the two teams on the young season. The Rockets were victorious in their first meeting back in October in what was a high scoring 126-123 shootout. NOLA was without Jrue Holiday, and on Monday they’ll be without starting point guard Lonzo Ball who will sit out his second consecutive game nursing a right adductor strain.

Similar to NOLA’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets last week, both the Rockets and Pelicans accompany each other at the bottom of the NBA in almost every major defensive category. Both teams can go on big runs, but key defensive stops will play huge dividends in a game not projected to have many. James Harden going 2-for-18 from deep isn’t likely to happen again, as it did in their first matchup.

In addition to communicating with each other defensively, the Pelicans will certainly have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. They must keep silly errors like stepping out of bounds and traveling to a minimum.

Points of emphasis

Stagger the playmakers

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Without Lonzo Ball, New Orleans will need to be more creative with their guard rotation as they’ve gotten into trouble when Ball, Ingram, and Holiday have been off the floor together. Alvin Gentry did a much better job of keeping either Brandon Ingram or Jrue Holiday on the floor against Charlotte, especially after the Hornets biggest run of the game to begin the second quarter. Playing a high scoring team like Houston won’t allow your best players much rest anyway.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is beginning to gain confidence, but he’s not in a position to lead New Orleans alone for long periods yet. Outside of Walker or two-way guard Josh Gray, there isn’t another guard capable of running the offense and setting up others consistently off the bench. Holiday and Ingram need to be staggered probably even when Ball returns, but it’s a must in his absence.

Limit turnovers; have solid offensive possessions

The Rockets turn a nice amount of turnovers into easy points or trips to the free throw line. The Pelicans rank dead last in fastbreak points given up. The potential of disaster is high here, but New Orleans can control these types of opportunities with solid offensive possessions, ones that don’t end in bad shot attempts, risky passes, or mental blunders. Houston doesn’t need anyone’s help to score. And while NOLA has been horrible defensively, they can help themselves by not allowing quick transition setups after long rebounds on bad shots.

New Orleans Pelicans v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s been a run in every game the Pelicans have lost that they struggled in recovering from, most of them are supplied with multiple deep attempts, lazy play execution, and overall self inflicted wounds. A healthy looking (finally) Derrick Favors and a increased role for energetic and scheme fitting Jaxson Hayes should be a little bit of medicine for the half court defense. The rest of the Pelicans are going to have to show better awareness and IQ consistently however to help fix the remaining holes.

Kenrich Williams: The Problem Solver?

New Orleans Pelicans v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Even if you’re skeptical about the advanced numbers involving Kenrich Williams’ start to the season, you can’t deny his visual impact, and his contributions witnessed on Saturday night.

Williams’ motor, heart, smarts, and unselfishness show up every time he’s on the floor. For a team struggling defensively and needing to execute a myriad of little details on the basketball floor, Kenny Hustle makes for a good solution.

If Alvin is right, the Pelicans may be ready to put together a winning streak soon. If he’s wrong, you still can’t knock the hustle. Kenrich’s next task at hand will be P.J. Tucker, possibly someone Williams could soon be compared to — if his play continues to translate versus top competition.

Geaux Pels!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (2-7) vs Houston Rockets (6-3)

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Monday, November 11, 2019 7:00 PM CDT.