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34-48

Rockets-Pelicans Preview

AP - Sports

The Houston Rockets figure to rest some of their key players in a meaningless regular-season finale.

They may have to put together a scouting report on the New Orleans Pelicans that is different from the one they used over the weekend.

The Pelicans' Tyreke Evans didn't play in his club's defeat that night but should be eager to get back on the court Wednesday night at home.

Houston (54-27) will be the No. 4 seed in its first-round series with Portland. The Rockets won 104-98 at home over San Antonio on Monday to seal home-court advantage in the first round.

"We fought hard for it," coach Kevin McHale said. "It took a little longer than I hoped, but we knew we had to get 54 wins and we got there with one to spare. I'm glad we didn't have to wait until Wednesday to try and get it."

Chandler Parsons scored 21 and Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones each had double-doubles for the Rockets, who are losers of four of five on the road and didn't want to wait until this contest to clinch.

"We wanted to come out here and take care of business and not rely on our last game on the road," star guard James Harden said.

It's not clear how McHale will approach this contest against the Pelicans (33-48), who will conclude the season without star forward Anthony Davis (back soreness).

Houston could sweep the season series for the first time since New Orleans joined the Western Conference in 2004-05. Harden is averaging 26.7 points in three victories.

Evans has suited up once for the Pelicans in the season series, sitting out Saturday's 111-104 defeat in Houston with a sore right knee.

The guard was expected to also be out Monday but returned from that one-game absence with a virtuoso performance, helping New Orleans end an eight-game slide with a 101-89 home victory over Oklahoma City. Evans scored a career-high 41 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.

"It was one of those, man, where I felt like nobody could guard me out there," said Evans, who set a franchise record for points in a half with 32 in the second. "The knee was sore but I was just fighting through it. ... It was just one of those games where I wanted to win, no matter what it took."

Evans' 41-point performance matched his total in the four games he played prior to sitting out against the Rockets. He shot 38.1 percent in that span but made 14 of 26 versus the Thunder.

"He wasn't going to play today. That's the amazing part," coach Monty Williams said.

New Orleans will finish last in the Southwest Division for the third straight season, but the franchise is trending upwards, improving by six victories for the second straight campaign.

"Our practices are always really good, shootarounds are great," Williams said, "and then you're seeing the carryover from a team that's just going to play until they take us off the floor."

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