New Orleans Pelicans vs Houston Rockets: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/24/18

Both the Pelicans and the Rockets are on extended winning streak, but one of them will come to an end when they meet on Saturday

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After their 17 game winning streak ended, Houston didn’t take long starting a new one. Since then they have won seven games on the trot and have all but cemented their spot as the number one seed in the west with a 58-14 record.

Their latest win came courtesy of a PJ Tucker game-tying basket late in the final quarter against Detroit. The game subsequently went to overtime, and the Rockets won 100-96.

The Pelicans are on a winning streak of their own, having come out of their last four matchups victorious. As a result, they have worked themselves into fifth position, where they sit with a 43-30 record.

Thanks to a 31-17 final quarter, New Orleans beat the Lakers 128-125 at home on Thursday. Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo were all major contributors in the victory, putting up at least 24 points each.

Three keys to the game

Harden’s shooting – Harden has been key to Houston success this season, and when he struggled against Detroit, unsurprisingly so did the Rockets. He shot 4-for-20 and from the field and 0-for-8 from long range in that game, and until late in the final quarter had scored just 11 points.

Dominant Davis – Davis’ incredible recent exploits have been well documented, and in his last five games, he has taken his efficiency to an extremely high level. He is shooting 62.9% from the field in this time, and his worst shooting performance in this time came against the Lakers when he shot 12-for-20 (60%).

Can the Pelicans keep up? – Houston’s high volume of 3-point shooting makes them hard to keep up with on the scoreboard, and though the Pelicans are a high-scoring team of late, much of this comes because of the fast pace they play. Their 36.2% from 3-point range places them in the middle of the league, and they take the 18th most attempts per game.

Matchup to watch

James Harden vs Jrue Holiday – Harden’s season has, as most people are aware, been impressive. He is averaging a career-high and league-leading 31.0 points, while also dishing out 8.7 assists and grabbing 1.8 steals. As mentioned though, he had one of his worst games of the season against Detroit, shooting 4-for-20 and dishing out just five assists.

He will spend a lot of time on Holiday on Saturday, a man who has taken his game to a new level this year, particularly since DeMarcus Cousins’ injury. Holiday averages 19.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals a game this season, and against the Lakers on Thursday shot 12-for-16 from the field on the way to 26 points and six assists.

Houston Rockets predicted starting lineup

PG – Chris Paul | SG – James Harden | SF – Trevor Ariza | PF – PJ Tucker | C – Clint Capela 

New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup

PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Anthony Davis | C – Emeka Okafor

Fantasy tip

The first game between these sides this season saw two of New Orleans guards shoot the lights out. Combined, E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday shot 31-for-41 from the field and 10-for-15 from long range. Moore shot 15-for-20 and had 36 points, while Holiday added 37 points on the back of 16-for-21 shooting. Holiday has been excellent in his other two games against Houston too, adding 19 points, eight assists, three steals and two blocks in one of them, and going 8-for-12 from the field for 21 points and dishing out seven assists in the other.

Betting tip

The over/under points total has been set at a relatively high 226.5, but expect this game to blow straight past it. Houston score at a rate of 113.2 points per 100 possessions, and the Pelicans play fast, so expect a high-scoring game.

Prediction

Strap yourselves in. This game will be fast-paced and high scoring, and the stats sheets will be stuffed at both ends of the floor. Davis will add his customary 30 points while Rondo and Holiday will continue their good form in the backcourt to combine for 30+ points and 15+ assists.

Led by Harden and Paul though, the Rockets will be too good. Harden will bounce straight back from his poor game against Detroit, and he will lead his side to a 121-111 win, Houston’s eighth in a row.

TV info

The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.

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