Final Score: Pelicans 131, Rockets 112
New Orleans Pelicans:
- Nikola Mirotic has proven himself mightily since the trade that brought him from Chicago. In this game, he allowed the game to flow through the front-court with both himself and Anthony Davis having strong performances. Mirotic provides a three point threat that forces the defense to respect the perimeter aspect of his game, going 6 for 8 from behind the arc. On top that, the presence of Davis alone allows Mirotic to be even more active on the boards. Out of his ten rebounds, seven came on the offensive side of the ball, giving more opportunities to a hot group of shooters.
- The back-court produced tonight as well, which isn’t always the case for New Orleans. All five starters scored in double digits tonight, and Elfrid Payton put up a triple double. New Orleans is known for their big-men-heavy offensive style, but scoring options on the wings staying hot keeps the defense honest and creates more opportunities for everyone. E’Twaun Moore had a very efficient night, posting 21 and shooting 60%.
- Julius Randle showed the potential to be a game changer for the Pelicans. In his first regular season game with the team, he seems to already understand his role on the team, and produced coming off the bench. Randle scored 25 and grabbed 8 rebounds on the night, showing the ability to be a great asset for the back-court. However, while already providing scoring and physicality off the bench, he also gives the Pelicans the ability to be even more versatile on offense. They can play a variation of small ball with Randle or go back-court heavy with him in the rotation as well.
Play of the Game: With 2:30 left in the second quarter, a smothered Anthony Davis executed a fantastic bounce pass to a wide-open Jrue Holiday under the basket to push the lead back out to eleven.
- The Rockets seemed to struggle mightily on defense tonight, allowing the Pelicans to score 131 and shoot 53% overall- 40% from beyond the arc. The lack of under-the-basket defense allowed the duo of Mirotic and Davis to establish themselves early and make Houston play from behind. This continued throughout the game, as the Rockets weren’t able to go on serious runs coming from their inability to get stops on the other end and never allowing their offense to get into a serious flow.
- Shooting for the Rockets seemed spotty all evening. While they did manage to score 112 points, which may be enough to beat some clubs some evenings, missing the types of shots the team did won’t allow them to keep up with the elite ones down the stretch. Carmelo had an incredibility inefficient night, shooting 26% and taking shots away from other players. Houston signed Melo knowing how he runs an offense, but that is with the expectations he will be efficient with the touches he receives. Eric Gordon provided some offense off the bench but struggled from behind the arc, contributing to the poor 33% team three point percentage.
- The game seemed to have slipped away from the Rockets early in this one. Houston got hot in the second quarter, hitting opportunistic looks they were creating. The problem was, they allowed the Pelicans to go shot for shot with them, and while Houston’s hot streak faded, that of the away team did not and further buried the Rockets in the hole they had already been burying themselves in. From this point on, the team could never quite find a rhythm and start chipping away at the deficit. The loss of Trevor Ariza and the defensive presence he provided could become a storyline that becomes more prevalent as the Rockets have more losses similar to these, with porous defensive efforts.
Play of the Game: 3:50 into the first quarter, James Harden drove to the basket with Clint Capela in a 2v1 in transition, and threw up a clean alley-oop to the center over the defending Anthony Davis.