25 Sep 2020 5:21 PM +00:00

Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/17/18

Houston (54-14) are trying to pad their lead atop the Western Conference and secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs as they have the NBA's best record.

The Rockets have won 27 of their last 30 overall after a 101-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night that clinched the Southwest Division title. It was the second Southwest title for the Rockets since the divisions were realigned in 2004, with the other one coming in 2015.

James Harden scored 23 points, including a key bucket in the final minute that restored a four-point lead. But Houston's defense has stepped to the forefront in this three-game run, holding opponents to 90.3 points per game and 26.0 percent from 3-point range in that span. That second figure is crucial to Houston's success as they have made more than twice as many 3-pointers than they have yielded (42-20).


New Orleans (39-29) entered play Friday night in sixth place in the Western Conference but only 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Clippers. Their 98-93 loss at San Antonio on Thursday night allowed the Rockets to clinch the division title and was also the Pelicans' third loss in four games.

Jrue Holiday had 24 points and seven assists while Anthony Davis added 21 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out. The Pelicans struggled offensively in the second half, hitting just 13 of 42 shots, wasting a defensive effort in which they held the Spurs to 11 baskets and 23 percent shooting in the final two quarters.