Defense-First Houston Rockets Look to Extend Winning Streak Versus Pelicans

Jan 26, 2021; Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Look out NBA, the Houston Rockets are here to put you in handcuffs. Since the James Harden trade on January 13th, the Houston Rockets have had the best defense in the league, per Statmuse.com. The Rockets currently rank eighth in points allowed per game, first in assists allowed, second in blocks, and fourth in defensive rating. The Rockets have not allowed more than 109 points in a game in their last five games. They also held the Washington Wizards to 88 on January 26th.

The Rockets’ last game versus the Portland Trailblazers, was their first game with a full squad, and the “WOW Factor” trio was unleashed. John Wall, Victor Oladipo, and Christian Wood combined for 67 points as Oladipo hit the game-sealing jumper to lead them to a 104-101 victory.

Oladipo, Wall, and Coach Stephen Silas have each referenced the importance of the team’s defense. Eric Gordon called the team “versatile” defensively and offensively. With defenders like Wall, Oladipo, Gordon, David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, and Jae’Sean Tate, the Rockets have held opponents to just 40.58% from the field in their last four games.

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The defensive analytics of the Rockets players have been extremely impressive. Per cleaningtheglass.com, DeMarcus Cousins ranks in the 99th percentile of all bigs in fgDR% and David Nwaba ranks in the 93rd and 95th percentiles in BLK% and STL%, respectively. With Oladipo on the court, the Rockets rank in the 99th percentile in forcing turnovers. The team also ranks in the 99th percentile in defending the midrange with Oladipo, holding players to -17.4 eFG% compared to when Oladipo sits. It is safe to say that the addition of Oladipo has bolstered the Rockets defense as the Rockets now have two elite defenders at the guard position.

Keys to the Game

The Rockets’ four-game win streak has lifted them to 8-9, only one game back of the eighth seed in the West. Houston, now fully healthy, look to extend its winning streak to five against the Pelicans. The Pelicans rank 14th in the Western Conference, with a record of 7-10, coming off a 131-126 victory over the Bucks.

The Pelicans rank 24th in defensive rating but are one of the better rebounding teams in the league. With rebounding being an issue for the Rockets, they must work to keep Steven Adams and Zion Williamson off the boards. The Rockets will also look to slow down Brandon Ingram, who has averaged 30 ppg in his last three games.

To counter the Pelicans’ bigs, the Rockets will look to run Steven Adams off the court. The Rockets rank 8th in pace, compared to the Pelicans’ 21st. They will also look to pack the paint defensively, as the Pelicans lack consistent shooters. Christian Wood looks to have a big game in his second game back from injury, against a team that cut him two years ago. DeMarcus Cousins also returns to New Orleans, seeming to slowly find his footing the last few games.

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