The re-energized Pelicans (26-21) have won six of their last seven games, showcasing a nascent ability to perform efficiently in the clutch.
The Pels (26-21) get their next chance Friday night when they host the Houston Rockets (34-12) at the Smoothie King Center in a matchup between two of the most dynamic offenses in the National Basketball Association.
The Houston Rockets aren't the type of team to rest on their laurels.
Despite playing without an injured Anthony Davis, the Pelicans had one of their best offensive outings of the season, powered by the playmaking of their own backcourt. Jrue Holiday is the third double-digit scorer and E'Twaun Moore is grabbing 2.8 rebounds.
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The New Orleans Pelicans are going to win this game over the Houston Rockets. Houston won its fourth straight game and seventh in the past nine.
In an in-depth Paul feature on SI.com, Lee Jenkins writes that Harden's free agent pursuit of Paul previous year began before the offseason started. The Houston Rockets have split their last eight road games. Harrison Barnes posted his team-high eighth double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both totals tying for game-high honors.
The New Orleans Pelicans have the best big man combination in all of the National Basketball Association. He has missed 17 games due to injuries this season, a possible reason coaches opted not to vote him among the Western Conference's reserves, although D'Antoni dismissed that logic. He was also passed over by the game's captains LeBron James and Steph Curry, who chose the reserves in this season's new team selection format. After missing a couple games, Harden is back and leading the way with 31.2 points per game.
Capela, a 6-10 center, did the most damage against the Pelicans in the December meeting. Houston was just 11 of 23 on free throws, in part because Harden, an 87 percent free-throw shooter, matched his season low with two attempts. Dallas forward Wesley Matthews stroked a 3 to open the scoring before Harden and Paul responded with treys that provided Houston the lead for good.
The Toronto Raptors sit three points further back as they also bounced back from a loss with a 108-93 win over the Atlanta Hawks thanks to 19 points from Fred VanVleet. He tallied nine points on three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Houston started 8-for-8 from the floor, including 6-for-6 from behind the arc. Three of their recent victories came in overtime.