Pelicans aim to step up defense vs. high-scoring Rockets

Field Level Media

The Houston Rockets have won three games in a row.

The New Orleans Pelicans won their last game.

That's relatively modest success, but it has both teams feeling better as the Pelicans prepare to host the Rockets on Monday night.

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The Rockets are coming off a 117-94 victory at Chicago on Saturday night. It was the first time this season that they held an opponent to fewer than 100 points.

On the same night, the Pelicans allowed their second-fewest points of the season in a 115-110 victory at Charlotte - just their second win of the season.

Houston led by just one point at halftime, but led by as many as 28 points in the second half. The Rockets allowed only 18 third-quarter points.

"Our effort, plain and simple," guard Russell Westbrook said of the improved defense in the second half. "I thought we did a good job early. They made some tough shots. We stayed with it defensively. We stayed with our defensive scheme and it worked out for us.

"We just have to be smart with the ball, stay down on those jump passes, make the simple plays."

The Rockets held the Bulls to 4-of-32 shooting on 3-pointers, a statistic that was magnified because Houston made 19-of-44 attempts from 3-point range.

"We knew that we turned the ball over too much and there were a lot of buckets we just gave them because of us (in the first half)," said James Harden, who made 9 of 19 3-pointers and led the Rockets with 42 points. "In the second half, we wanted to limit their easy buckets and limit our turnovers and we did that. Obviously, we made shots. But you do those two things, you have a better chance to win the games."

The Pelicans know they'll have a better chance to win if they can keep their points allowed closer to where it was against the Hornets. The Rockets are second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 120.1 points per game.

New Orleans is last in the NBA in scoring defense with an average of more than 122 points per game. It had to overcome 26 turnovers to win at Charlotte.

"I just thought we turned the ball over way too much," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We've just got to get better in that department right there ... and they're careless turnovers, we've just got to get better at that.

"We grinded it out and found a way to win and to me that's the most important thing."

Point guard Lonzo Ball sat out the game because of a groin injury and the Pelicans started JJ Redick, who had his best game of the season. Redick scored 22 points, making 5-of-9 3-point shots.

"For the first time this season I feel like we were able to free JJ up for some good looks that he didn't really try to have to force up," Gentry said. "I thought we did a good job early on with the pace of the game and we got him into a situation where we were able to drive and kick and have him have some good looks and he took advantage of it."

--Field Level Media

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