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Reply To: NBA • Wednesday Service Plays • 12/2/15

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Preview: New Orleans At Houston

When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

Two of the most disappointing teams in the Western Conference square off when the Houston Rockets host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Houston reached the conference finals last season but sputtered so badly at the start of this season that coach Kevin McHale was fired, while New Orleans possesses the third-worst record in the NBA.

The Pelicans were viewed as a rising club after making the playoffs last season behind star power forward Anthony Davis. But several key injuries diminished the team’s depth and New Orleans has been unable to compete at the level it intended. Guards Tyreke Evans (knee) and Norris Cole (ankle) each played for the first time this season Tuesday but the Pelicans still dropped a 113-104 decision against the Memphis Grizzlies for their third straight defeat. Houston has lost eight of its last 11 games as its fortunes didn’t improve after McHale was fired and replaced on an interim basis by J.B. Bickerstaff.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN New Orleans, ROOT (Houston)

ABOUT THE PELICANS (4-14): Evans excelled in his first outing of the season with 20 points and 10 assists while playing 31 minutes. Yet Davis pointed out that adding Evans and Cole doesn’t immediately solve problems and actually causes cohesiveness issues. “It’s tough when you have two of your key guys come back and all the lineups are messed up and everybody’s trying to get back accustomed to one another,” Davis said afterward. “But that’s not an excuse. We’ve still got to come out and play defensively. Offensively, we’ll be fine, but defensively we’ve got to come out and play a lot better than what we’re doing the past couple games.”

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (7-11): Houston started second-year power forward Clint Capela in each of the last three games and the 21-year-old is enjoying a productive stretch in which he has posted three double-doubles in his last five games. Capela replaced underperforming Terrence Jones in the starting lineup, and Jones is just 6-of-23 shooting over his past four games and says he is affected by an injury. “I’ve been playing through a hand injury, being kind of tentative,” Jones told reporters. “J.B. talked to me about that he wanted me to fight through it and get in there more.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Rockets have won seven of their past eight home games against the Pelicans.

2. Davis had 17 points, 14 rebounds and tied his career best of nine blocked shots in the loss to Memphis but was just 4-of-15 shooting.

3. Houston PF Donatas Motiejunas (back) was been cleared to resume practicing and a timetable for his return will be set later this week.

PREDICTION: Rockets 126, Pelicans 120