The New Orleans Pelicans might be fighting for a last spot in the Western conference playoff, but the Houston Rockets have their own worries and concerns, prompting James Harden to put in another big day at the office and lead his team to a 121-114 win.
The Rockets, with the win, improve to 54-26. Right now it puts them at sixth in the West, their record tied with the Grizzlies (5th) and Clippers (4th) while the Spurs take control of the number two overall spot with a 0.5 game edge at 55-26. The Pelicans remain eighth in the West with a 43-37, holding back the Thunder thanks to winning the series between the two teams this season.
James Harden scored 30 points and added 7 assists, coming alive, along with his team, in the second half and especially the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pelicans by 7 points. Anthony Davis, finishing with 27 points, gave a strong performance in the first half but his team faded away, especially defensively and specifically on transition, allowing James Harden to push freely through the gaps whenever he caught the scent of a weakness in the air.
Dwight Howard is getting more and more minutes as the Rockets push the boundaries of his “return” program. He scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, getting 3 block shots as well. The Rockets were actually at their best during Josh Smith‘s minutes on the floor, finishing with 15 points and 7 rebounds, including a hook shot and 3-point play that made it quite clear this game was going the Rockets’ way.
Corey Brewer scored 20 points but it is quite surprising to see that his win and loss statistics are pretty similar, both in points and in shooting percentage. Brewer, like Harden, was very aggressive when attacking the basket and actually led the team in free throw attempts (8-of-11). Along with Smith and Pablo Prigioni, he forms a very useful trio coming off the bench.
If the season ended today, the Rockets would be facing the Spurs. But things are still too complicated and convoluted in the Western conference when it comes to the 2-3-5-6 spots in the playoffs. The Rockets haven’t been playing badly, but the Spurs winning 10 in a row and the Clippers winning nine of their last 10 games seems to be interfering with their plans of home court advantage and actually getting past a first round series. An excellent team, but possibly headed towards an early exit once again.