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NBA Preview: Free-falling Pelicans host sizzling Rockets

Eight games left fam — we can do this!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not much fun writing about the Pelicans these days.

The Anthony Davis melodrama is on hold until May 14th, when the lottery balls bounce and bring with them sweeping speculation.

The search for a new general manager and possibly head coach likely won’t come until after the NFL Draft next month which runs April 25th-27th, because #MickeyLoomis.

As for the remaining eight games left to be played? Not much to be interested in there either.

Since the Pelicans managed to upend the Utah Jazz on March 4th, they have quite simply played the worst basketball in the NBA. In addition to losing seven of the previous eight contests, they carry the league’s worst Offensive Rating and 29th-worst Defensive Rating.

Even Jahlil Okafor and Cheick Diallo have begun to regress without their signal-caller and leader on the floor, Jrue Holiday. Kenrich Williams’ impressive 16.8% rebounding percentage (first among small forwards in February), has slammed back to earth in March (12.4%). Elfrid Payton’s triple-double streak came to an end against the Orlando Magic, but his -20.0 Net Rating over the last eight games holds strong.

Thankfully, Frank Jackson continues his streak of double-digit scoring nights at eight), and even came up with a game-sealing shot against the Dallas Mavericks, but other than that, what is there really to get excited about?

The Pelicans should get a good look at Dairis Bertans and Christian Wood over the remaining eight games, but it’s hard to imagine the front office will see anything definitive enough to hype them up prior to next season. If anything, it should be viewed as an extended training camp.

But masochism has been super prevalent in New Orleans’ sports this season, so let’s break down the upcoming matchup with the Houston Rockets!

The Rockets are sizzling hot in February and March, having won 13 of their previous 15 games. At 46-37, their one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the third seed may give them the ammunition they need to avoid the Warriors until the Western Conference Finals once again.

But a series-clinching victory could change all that, and give the Pelicans playoff leftovers (Blazers) the jolt they need to draw the Clippers in round one instead of the Oklahoma City Thunder and avoid the Warriors until the final frame.

You should know the formula by now:

  • Dominate the paint (HOU is 30th in O, 28th in D)
  • Limit the three (HOU is 1st)
  • Don’t foul the shooter (3rd)

The Rockets are the league’s very best halfcourt offense. While they sludge up and down the court (28th) in pace, their second-rated offense is equally difficult and frustrating. The Clint Capela-James Harden pick-and-roll is near unguardable.

It’ll be up to Frank Jackson and Elfrid Payton to trap Harden on the perimeter and close out on shooters like Eric Gordon (41.5%), PJ Tucker (44.9%), and Gary Clark (45.5%), who have been nearly automatic from three over the past 15 games.

Clint Capela is back to posting his usual double-doubles since returning from injury, averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds during that time. However, Chris Paul has been a disaster from the floor, shooting just under 40% and 33% from three-point range. While still one of the games’ best individual creators, the defense can afford to sag off of him on the perimeter and concentrate on Harden until he gets nearer to the paint.

Hope you enjoy this one Pels’ fans. Only the most dedicated of you are still hanging tough. Win or lose, let’s geaux Pels!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (31-43) vs Houston Rockets (46-27)

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

When: Sunday, March 25th, 2019. 6:00 PM CST

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO