PREVIEW: New Orleans Pelicans have momentum before rematch with Rockets

By Field Level Media
Feb 5, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) dribbles the ball while Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) defends in the fourth quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets met, the Rockets were the hotter of the two teams.

The Rockets return to New Orleans on Tuesday, just 10 days after winning there, but now the Pelicans are the hotter of the two teams.

New Orleans has won three games in a row for the first time this season, and five of its last seven overall. Houston has lost three of its last four.

“A lot of things are different,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said, comparing the Pelicans’ current stretch with the 1-8 stretch that preceded it. “I just think (we have) more consistent energy, we understand our game and how we are trying to play offensively a little bit better.”

New Orleans’ 118-109 home victory against Memphis on Saturday ended a stretch of six games in nine days.

Read More: RECAP: Pelicans win third straight, take down Grizzlies

“We think we can play with anybody,” guard Lonzo Ball said. “This is our first year playing together, and it’s going to take some time, still. We’re still working on a few things, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Ball has made 49.1 percent of his 3-pointers during the last seven games, including 55.6 percent in the last four games.

“(My) shot feels good,” Ball said. “(I’m) just in a good rhythm right now, just trying to take the shots that I know are generated from good offense, and when I’m open just letting it go.”

Ball scored 16 points against the Grizzlies, and three teammates scored more than 20 points. Zion Williamson scored 29, Brandon Ingram had 27 points and 12 rebounds, and Eric Bledsoe added 21 points.

The Rockets defeated the Pelicans 126-112 on Jan. 30 for their fifth consecutive win in what would become a six-game winning streak.

Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo each scored 16 points as the Rockets seized control with a 48-point second quarter. Wood finished with 27 points, Oladipo had 20, John Wall scored 15, Eric Gordon had 14 and Jae’Sean Tate added 13.

Read More: NBA rumors: Houston Rockets could trade Victor Oladipo before the deadline

Ball’s brother, rookie LaMelo Ball, had his own hot hand on 3-pointers Monday, making a season-high seven as he had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the host Charlotte Hornets to a 119-94 rout of the short-handed Rockets.

Oladipo scored 21 points to lead the Rockets, who stayed close for three quarters before the Hornets opened the fourth quarter on a 19-1 run. Houston shot just 2 of 19 from the floor and scored only seven points in the period.

“It’s a learning process,” said Oladipo, who joined the Rockets last month as part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden from Houston to Brooklyn. “We’re new to one another. Our best basketball is ahead of us. I truly believe that.”

Wall and Gordon were given the night off against Charlotte, but they are expected to return against New Orleans. Wood missed his second consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle.

“The good thing about the NBA is we’ve got another one tomorrow that’s winnable,” said Ben McLemore, who had 15 points in 18 1/2 minutes for the Rockets against the Hornets. “And we’ve got (Wall and Gordon) coming back.”

Read More: Houston Rockets star Christian Wood (ankle sprain) is week-to-week

–Field Level Media