|5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CT23:00 , October 26, 2019
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas Attendance: 18,055
Rockets pledge to keep shooting vs. Pelicans
One game into a season laden with equal parts intrigue and promise, the Houston Rockets immediately hit upon the talking points that served to define their moments of greatest success last season.
After falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 117-111 on Thursday in their season opener at Toyota Center, the Rockets opted to focus on defensive shortcomings, despite the second-half offensive collapse that seemed to be the culprit in the loss. Having raced to a 16-point halftime lead on 11-for-21 shooting from 3-point range, Houston missed 22 of 27 from deep following the break.
On Friday, just prior to their preparations for the New Orleans Pelicans -- whom Houston will host on Saturday -- the Rockets pivoted. Film study revealed the missed opportunities that undermined their effort against Milwaukee, one that was sufficient enough defensively, if only the Rockets converted their plentiful open perimeter opportunities at a reasonable rate.
"If we make those shots, it's a different ballgame. We didn't," said Rockets guard James Harden, who shot 2 of 13 overall while missing 7 of 8 3-pointers. "I'm very confident. We just watched film, and we're probably more confident than we were before the game just by watching that film.
"Our shot opportunities that we had offensively (boosted that confidence), and defensively how we were active, our energy, the spirit that we had. That's going to carry us a long way."
With so many questions marks regarding how the Rockets would play with Russell Westbrook, acquired in the offseason from Oklahoma City, one obvious aspect of his game played out as anticipated. With Westbrook pushing the tempo, especially while Harden rested on the bench, the Rockets recorded 27 fast-break points, matching their high-water mark from last season.
In two meetings with Milwaukee in 2018-19, the Rockets totaled four fast-break points.
"I think that's the way we're going to play," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Against one of the best, if not the best, defensive team, I thought we took really good shots and missed them for whatever reason. But we can clean that up. That's not going to happen too often. So I'm encouraged."
The Pelicans played their second competitive game of the young season Friday, blowing a 14-point first-half lead in their 123-116 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks. New Orleans pushed reigning champion Toronto to overtime on Tuesday before falling 130-122.
The Pelicans are, of course, without forward Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick of the draft and prohibitive favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors. The expectation was for the Pelicans to provide excitement this season with Williamson, who will miss six to eight weeks after knee surgery.
Thus far without him, they've been feisty.
"It's all a learning process, and you can learn from everything, good or bad," Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. "Going back and seeing all the mistakes that are correctable is part of the biggest positive and not feeling like it's a negative but feeling like it's something we can look forward to."
Brandon Ingram, acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade of Anthony Davis, has paced New Orleans with 47 points through two games, while adding in 13 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks.
The two teams split the season series a year ago, with the road team winning all four meetings.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 26, 2019