The Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans have been among the NBA's biggest disappointments, but may both finally be coming around.
The Rockets can move two games over .500 for the first time Saturday night when they visit the Pelicans in a contest that features superstars James Harden and Anthony Davis.
Houston (16-15) reached the Western Conference finals a season ago and New Orleans (9-20) was thought to be a team on the rise after reaching the playoffs before both stumbled to start the season.
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The Rockets, who fired coach Kevin McHale on Nov. 18, are slowly but surely re-establishing themselves as winners of 11 of 16. They won for the fourth time in five games Friday with an impressive 88-84 victory over San Antonio, which had a seven-game win streak snapped.
"This is what we've been working towards and building towards," interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We've shown it in spurts but we haven't been able to sustain it for long enough."
Houston is developing a better defensive identity, holding its last five opponents to an average of 93.4 points on 42.1 percent shooting. The Spurs' 84 points were a season low.
"We're more than capable," Harden said. "So we have to find ourselves. We've got to find that energy, that consistent defensive togetherness every single night."
New Orleans has won six of its last nine at home and three of five overall as it seeks to dig out of a hole that has it holding the West's second-worst record.
The Pelicans fell 94-88 in overtime at Miami on Friday despite Davis' 29 points and 15 rebounds. He missed a contested jumper as regulation expired.
"That's why I get paid the big bucks, to win games for us down the stretch," Davis said. "I was actually missing shots in the fourth and the team actually did a good job of carrying me."
He had 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks at halftime. No player had done that in any half since at least the start of the 2002-03 season.
Harden is second in the league with 28.5 points per game and Davis is also in the top 10 at 23.6. Fatigue won't be a factor since Harden averages a league-best 33.4 points in the second half of back-to-back contests while Davis is at 27.4.
Harden had 24 points, 10 boards and six assists while Davis scored 29 and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Rockets' 108-101 home victory Dec. 2.
The Pelicans played that game without guard Jrue Holiday, who is on a minutes restriction due to a leg injury and wasn't available for Friday's overtime. Holiday had nine points in regulation.
"It's tough not having him out there," coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's tough as a coach knowing that you have an opportunity to win the game and now you have to take him out. That's just the way things are."
The Rockets have won three straight following three defeats in a row in a streaky series. Houston took the previous four meetings prior to that slide.