National Basketball Association
Preview
Houston at New Orleans
When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Houston Rockets locked up the No. 4 spot and homecourt advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Monday. The Rockets figured to rest some of their key players when they close out the regular season by visiting the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Houston is taking on a Pelicans team with several key players injured but still has to find someone to guard swingman Tyreke Evans, who is closing out the season with a bang.

Evans put up a career-high 41 points and added nine rebounds and eight assists as New Orleans snapped an eight-game slide with a 101-89 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. Evans sat out Saturday’s 111-104 loss at the Rockets and was a surprise addition to the lineup on Monday after battling back from a bone bruise in his knee. The Rockets were busy knocking off the top team in the NBA on Monday to secure their spot with a 104-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs and should feel very confident should they advance to face the Spurs in the second round after sweeping that season series.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, CSN Houston, FSN New Orleans

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (54-27): Houston gave Dwight Howard (ankle) enough playing time over the last two games to get him back in shape after missing eight straight and the All-Star put up 20 points and 17 rebounds in the win over the Spurs on Monday. Howard is one of several players that could have their time limited Wednesday with the postseason position secure. “We fought for it,” coach Kevin McHale told reporters of homecourt advantage. “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 an get it.”

ABOUT THE PELICANS (33-48): New Orleans’ rash of injuries has been a good thing for players like Evans and Austin Rivers, who are both getting a chance to start. Rivers was tossed from Monday’s game after a scuffle with Thunder forward Nick Collison but averaged 16 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in the previous three contests, including a season-high 20 points and 10 rebounds Saturday against the Rockets. “Next year it’s going to get better for us,” Evans told reporters after Monday’s win. “We just need to stay healthy and go through the system and hope everything goes right.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Houston has taken all three meetings this season and seven of the last eight.

2. Evans put up 16 points and nine assists in his lone appearance against the Rockets this season.

3. Houston G Patrick Beverley is averaging 16 points in two games since returning from a knee injury.

PREDICTION:
Pelicans 119, Rockets 115
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Houston 54-27 W2 33-8 21-19 0-4 54-23 11-4 31-20
New Orleans 33-48 W1 21-19 12-29 4-1 29-47 3-12 14-37
Last Meeting
Houston New Orleans
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
4/12/14 NO 104 HOU 111 111 36 47.3 104 39 44.3
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston J. Harden 33 45.5 10
New Orleans L. Babbitt 24 44.4 4
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston O. Asik 8 1 7
New Orleans A. Rivers 10 1 9
Assists Player  
Houston J. Harden 13
New Orleans A. Rivers 6
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston J. Harden 1982 45.9 610
New Orleans A. Davis 1553 52.3 391
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston D. Howard 926 247 679
New Orleans A. Davis 720 223 497
Assists Player  
Houston J. Harden 473
New Orleans T. Evans 357
Quickchart Matchup
Houston Off vs  New Orleans Defense
107.8 Points For
102.5 Points Against
47.3 FG%
46.6 FG%
45.4 Reb
41.7 Reb
New Orleans Off vs  Houston Defense
99.7 Points For
103.1 Points Against
45.8 FG%
44.2 FG%
41.7 Reb
41.7 Reb