Story By Phillip Petty III, sophomore at St. Augustine High School, mentored by Nick Boulet
On Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans welcomed James Harden and the Houston Rockets into town.
The Pelicans have been struggling lately, only winning one of their last six games coming off a victory Friday night. Down the stretch in the close game, Anthony Davis made some clutch shots and finishing with 48 points, helping the Pels escape with a 114-112 victory. Before the win that night for the Pelicans, they were on a 5 game losing streak which is their longest losing streak since the 2016-2017 season. On the other end, the Rockets have won six of their last seven with one of their best players injured which is Chris Paul, who is a former new Orleans Hornet. Last game for the Rockets they defeated the Celtics with James Harden leading the way with 45 points. Let’s look at the three major keys that the Pels needed to defeat the Rockets.
Contain the three point line
The Rockets live or die by the three point shot. They take more three point attempts than any other team in the NBA. If you contain the Rockets’ three point shots they will struggle mightily. The Pelicans did a poor job on the Rockets three point attack throughout the game. The Rockets made 16 three pointers. The Pels also fouled Harden twice while shooting three point attempts.
Finish 4th quarter strong
During the Pelicans’ 5 game losing streak they have looked horrible in the 4th quarter, with the exception of their Friday night win with Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Julius Randle hitting some big shots in the clutch. Against the Rockets, the Pelicans were in it all the way through the game. Then in the clutch stages of the 4th, nobody was to be found for the Pels. They struggled hitting their shots and once again the Pels fell apart in the 4th quarter.
Contain James Harden
James Harden has looked phenomenal this year. This season is similar to his MVP season where he averaged 30.4 points per game and 8.8 assists. But this season he has improved averaging 32.7 points per game and 8.3 assists. The Pels needed to force Harden to take tough shots. Jrue Holiday was given the task to guard James Harden but on some possessions they doubled team Harden to slow him down. In the first half the Pelicans did a horrible job on containing Harden. Harden finished with 41 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds.
With the Rockets coming on top the final score was 108-104, the Pels fell to 16-21 and the Rockets rose to 20-15. Next for the Pels, they will look to get out of their recent slump and welcome Karl Anthony-Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19) into town. As for the Rockets they will travel back home and face the the Memphis Grizzlies.