Maybe more satisfying than Anthony Davis having a second big night in a row was the defensive ability of the New Orleans Pelicans in a 99-90 win over the Houston Rockets, struggling on back to back nights with James Harden not shooting very well or playing up to his usual standards.
Davis finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks, looking very hungry in his second game since his short injury absence. He made it very difficult for the Rockets in the paint, including Dwight Howard, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. But Howard not matching Davis’ numbers wasn’t the problem for the Rockets. It was more of when he wasn’t playing, or generally the shooting, especially from Harden and Trevor Ariza.
We’ve been through Ariza’s woes from the outside before. He hasn’t been shooting well all season, but as long as Harden keeps up his usual numbers and Howard (among others) is there to pick up offensive rebounds, the Rockets will live with his misses. But when Harden is only 8-of-23 from the field and there isn’t anyone who actually makes up for those misses, as both Donata Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley shoot well below 50% from the field.
The Rockets shot just 38.4% from the field and 24% from beyond the arc, led by Harden with 21 points. A night after scoring 41 in an overtime win against the Nuggets, it wasn’t too surprising to see his effort affect him and fatigue drag him down a bit. The problem was the rest of his teammates were just as tired, and weren’t too keen on actually giving the effort of thinking, instead settling for bad shots which are always easier to find.
Besides Davis, Jrue Holiday caused a lot of problems for the Rockets with his ability to get in the paint and find open players. He scored 16 points to go with 10 assists. Despite the points and ability of Tyreke Evans missing, Austin Rivers (10 points) and also Dante Cunningham (15 points off the bench) made up for it. Ryan Anderson scored 16 points.
Now that Davis is back, the Pelicans needn’t worry too much about slipping out of the playoff spot which they currently hold. They just might have the best player in the league on their side, making all of their defensive problems a bit more of a minor issue. Their dependence on him might be a bit scary, but who doesn’t over rely on their superstar? If they can fix their defensive woes as well, the sky is the limit for this young and talented team.