He’s definitely known much more for his “Not On Herb” defensive prowess and the other contributions he makes to the New Orleans Pelicans, but lately second-year wing Herb Jones has been a consistent point producer, reaching double digits in scoring for four consecutive games. That’s tied for the second-longest such streak he’s registered as a pro (Jones did it seven straight games from Jan. 6-20 in his rookie season). The University of Alabama product is averaging 15.5 points during the four-game span, while shooting 55 percent (22/40) from the field.
“It’s a testament to his offseason work,” second-year forward Trey Murphy said after Saturday’s morning shootaround. “He didn’t leave the gym. It’s really shown on the offensive end.”
With New Orleans (6-6) preparing to host Houston (2-10) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Smoothie King Center, Jones continues to work on his overall game, including perimeter shooting. That’s one area that’s been a struggle early in 2022-23 for the 24-year-old. He was 1/6 from three-point range prior to sustaining a knee hyperextension vs. Utah in NOLA’s home opener. Since returning from the injury, Jones is 1/9, giving him a total of 2/15 from beyond the arc. Asked how he views his slow shooting start, Jones responded, “Just believing in the process. I know it’s not going to be an overnight thing. It may not happen in a month, or two months. But if I continue to put in the work, eventually it will happen for me.”
Jones on how he’s feeling after playing five straight games (he was sidelined for four in a row prior to that): “I feel like I’ve been getting back to myself. Sitting out a couple games kind of broke the rhythm or the stride I thought I was going to get into before the injury.” …
Trey Murphy ranks No. 13 among NBA players in three-point percentage (minimum 60 attempts), but his home/road shooting splits are drastic: He’s shooting 59 percent in four Smoothie King Center games, compared to 34 percent in eight road contests. Murphy attributes that to the sometimes-fluky stats that emerge from small sample sizes.
“(It’s) the law of large numbers,” Murphy said. “The more that you do something, the more you’re going to get to your true average. Eventually I’ll get back to my 45 percent (from three-point range) on the road, as well as at home.” …
Last week New Orleans experienced a stretch in which it was on Pacific time for a Wednesday game in Los Angeles, on Central time at home Friday vs. Golden State, then on Eastern time Saturday in Atlanta. Asked about the team’s unusual early-season travel schedule, a smiling Jones noted, “I did have a problem with my room number. I was going to a previous room (number in a hotel) when we got to the next city. So that was something I struggled with.”
Houston Scouting Report
Offensive efficiency rank: 24 (108.7)
Defensive efficiency rank: 29 (116.4)
Net rating: 29 (-7.7)
Streak: Lost 1
Go-to guy: After being selected second overall in the 2021 draft, Rockets guard Jalen Green finished his rookie season of 2021-22 in strong fashion, improving in virtually every category after the All-Star break (average of 22.1 points, compared to 14.6 prior to the midseason hiatus). The Fresno native is a spectacular dunker and can get hot from three-point range (36 percent this season on 7.8 attempts per game).
On the rise: Rookie forward and LSU product Tari Eason delivered eye-opening performances during summer league after being drafted No. 17 overall in June. The Seattle native is an all-around contributor who has increased his offensive production over the past week, scoring a career-high 17 points at Minnesota and 14 points in Toronto three days ago.
Previous Game Starting Lineups
Wednesday loss at Toronto
Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Eric Gordon, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun
Notes: This group is 1-4, recording its win Monday at Orlando. It lost home and away to the Clippers, as well as at Portland. … Houston has already used seven different starting lineups. … The Rockets are tied with the Lakers for having the fewest wins in the NBA. Every other team in the Western Conference has won at least five games.
NEW ORLEANS (6-6)
Thursday loss vs. Portland
CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas
Notes: This group is 4-4, splitting this week’s back-to-back at Chicago and vs. the Trail Blazers. The Pelicans do not have a winning streak or losing streak of longer than two games this season. … New Orleans has used three different starting lineups. … New Orleans enters Saturday in eighth place in the West, a half-game behind seventh-place Dallas (6-5).
FanDuel Keys to the Game
The biggest statistical advantage New Orleans brings into Saturday’s matchup probably comes in transition, where the Pelicans are fifth in the NBA in fast-break points per game (16.1), while the youth-laden Rockets allow the league’s highest average in that stat (18.9). Houston was also 30th in fast-break points allowed in both of the last two seasons.
NO BACKCOURT LIFT-OFF
When the Rockets are successful, it is usually led by their high-usage starting backcourt of Green and Porter. They’ve combined to average 51.0 points on 54 percent shooting from the field in Houston’s pair of victories. Green put up 29.5 ppg on 21/34 accuracy in wins over Utah and Orlando.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
At power forward, Williamson (No. 1 pick in 2019) and Smith (No. 3 pick in 2022) are recent high-lottery draftees and at the forefront of their franchises’ futures. Williamson tied his season high Thursday with 29 points vs. Portland, while 19-year-old rookie Smith tallied 15 points Wednesday at Toronto, after four straight appearances with single-digit points.