Pelicans Lose to Houston, Magic Number for Playoffs Now 2


In the middle of the third-quarter the Pelicans had cruised out to a 9-point lead and looked poised to cut the Magic Number to one. In a blink, the Rockets roared past New Orleans with 69 second-half points to win 121-114.

The Pelicans misstepped Sunday night in a road game that felt like a playoff contest. New Orleans still moved a game closer to a playoff berth despite the loss.

With two games remaining the Pelicans can guarantee their playoff spot by winning out.

Through three quarters the Rockets and Pelicans played an even match, with New Orleans opening up the occasional 7-10 pt lead, but heading into the fourth quarter the game was tied.

Coming out of the commercial break it felt like one of the biggest quarters of the season for the Pelicans.

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The fourth quarter is where great teams shine, and the Pelicans are not yet on the same level of the Rockets. Houston sprinted out to a 100-91 lead less than four minutes into the 4th and the Pelicans wouldn’t get closer than five the rest of the game.

Corey Brewer sprinted out after every 4th quarter Pelicans miss, racking up 13 of his 20 points in the final period. He was the force behind Houston’s 21-0 fast break advantage.

That wasn’t New Orleans only disadvantage – the Rockets attempted 26 more free throws than the Pels (48 to NOLA’s 22).

Monty Williams tried to utilize intentional free throws as a strategy, but the Rockets shot 70% on their FT attempts which led to their 34-15 FT made advantage. James Harden, Pablo Prigioni, and Brewer combined to go 23/26 from the line.

Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 27 PTS 7 REB 4 ASt 2 STL. Seven players for New Orleans scored in double-figures, but offense wasn’t the problem.

Apr 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) during the second quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans will have to tighten up their defense if they want to close out the final two games of the season.

They shot efficiently as a team (48%) and were solid from three (40%) but came up short after allowing 121 points.

Omer Asik started the game by holding Dwight Howard to one first-half field goal, but was abused in the second half as Howard racked up 19 PTS 11 REB.

Howard was moving Asik around as if he was a minor inconvenience.

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Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson were solid contributors, adding a competitive level of depth to the Pelicans’ roster.

The two combined for 32 PTS – Anderson led the team with 15 PTS at halftime, but didn’t score in the second half. Holiday impacted the game with scoring and defense picking up 17 PTS on 7/9 shooting with 2 steals.

The Rockets may have their playoff-berth wrapped up, unlike the Pelicans, but they had a lot at stake with this game in regards to seeding.

Apr 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) shoots around Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) during the second quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Clippers have all been trading between the 2, 3, 5, and 6 seed (Portland has secured their division, which guarantees at them the 4-seed).

Coming into the game, the Rockets trailed the Spurs, Clippers, and Grizzlies by a half game, leaving them at the six-seed. Now they are tied with the Clippers and Grizzlies at 54-26.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell short against the Indiana Pacers Sunday evening 104-116. Russell Westbrook did his best to will the Thunder to victory, tying a franchise-high mark with 54 PTS while flirting with a triple-double (9 AST 8 REB).

The biggest stat of the night for Westbrook though was his one technical foul. He now has 16 total technicals on the season, which triggers an automatic one-game suspension.

Oklahoma City will host the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night in a must-win matchup.

The Trail Blazers are struggling with injury issues of their own, but the Thunder have been abysmal in games without their three biggest stars (Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka).

New Orleans will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night in a game that should be an easy win.

The Minnesota Timberwolves sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, with only 16 wins for the season. In addition to being generally terrible, they also are dealing with a run of injuries that lists eight players on their injury report, including out-for-season designations for Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Shabazz Muhammad.

After their matchup with the TWolves, the Pelicans return to the Blender for their final game of the regular season.

They will be play the San Antonio Spurs who are involved in the same frantic finish as the Rockets. The Spurs are white-hot riding an 11-game win streak.

The Pelicans could have done the Spurs a favor by beating the Rockets, which could have led to San Antonio resting players in the season finale. The Spurs won Sunday 107-91 against the Suns Sunday, which gives a half-game advantage in the 2-seed with only the Pelicans game left on their schedule.

The next few games for the other contenders will determine the matchup New Orleans faces on Wednesday.

There a lot of moving pieces in the puzzle, but for the Pelicans the path is clear: win and you’re in….

Next: Pelicans and Thunder Ready to Race for the 8th Seed