Pelicans Self-Destruct in Loss to Rockets

Despite shooting 3-of-34 from three-point range, the Houston Rockets won a game that they shouldn’t have tonight vs. the New Orleans Pelicans — an ugly loss that epitomizes the type of season it’d been for the Pelicans this year.

New Orleans’ downfall was the 24 turnovers that they committed to offset a horrible shooting percentage from behind the 3-point arc by Houston.

In the simplest of terms, the Pelicans self-destructed, sabatoging what little Playoff hopes they may have had remaining.

With the loss, New Orleans (23-36) finished 1-3 in the season series against the Rockets. The Pelicans now sit five games behind the Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

Mar 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) argues a call with official Brent Barnaky (70) while playing against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday hit a three pointer to start the fourth quarter to extend the Pelicans lead to three points, before Rockets forward James Harden responded with a jumper to bring the Rockets within one, 79-78.

From there, both teams did not score over the next three minutes.  Harden got the Rockets out of their scoring slump, finishing on a layup and converting on a pair of free throws on the next play.

When things looked like they were headed south for New Orleans, Cole hit a clutch three pointer to tie the game at 82. This was the spark the Pelicans needed. New Orleans went on a 11-3 run to take a 93-87 lead.

Then, due to three straight turnovers and sloppy play from the Pelicans, Houston responded with a 7-3 run to take a 94-93 lead.

In the final 1:30, things continued to fall in favor of the Rockets. Patrick Beverley hit a huge three pointer to put the Rockets up 97-95.

The Pelicans could not score and Harden made his way back to the free throw line, adding two more free throws to make it a four-point game. Davis missed on the last try for the Pelicans before Corey Brewer added two cushion free throws to seal the victory for the Rockets.

For the game, the Pelicans shot 40 percent off 36-for-90 shooting from the floor and hit 39 percent (14-of-36) from three-point range. Norris Cole finished with 21 points to lead the Pelicans in scoring.

Mar 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Norris Cole (30) dribbles past Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) in the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 100-95. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Five other Pelicans finished in double figures. Cunningham recorded his fifth double-digit scoring performance with 16 points. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson combined for 28 points, followed by Holiday with 13 and Anthony Davis with 12.

Houston beat New Orleans in points in the paint (50-38), fast break points (27-16) and rebounds (51-43). Houston finished the game, shooting 44 percent (36-of-81) from the floor.

Harden, the second leading scorer in the NBA, finished with 10 more points than his season average with 39 to lead the Rockets in scoring. Beverley and Howard also finished in double figures with 15 and 16 points, respectively.

Harden converted a jumper to score the first points of the game. Cunningham responded with one of his two three pointers in the quarter to put the Pelicans up, 3-2. Over the next six minutes, the teams exchanged baskets using an up-tempo style pace.

The Rockets did not convert on any three pointers in the first half but they found ways to score in the paint. New Orleans used excellent ball movement and great shooting to take a 28-25 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Leading by three to start the second quarter, the Pelican started sloppy. Anderson committed two turnovers. Following the turnovers, however, the Pelicans gained momentum with good ball rotation and good shot selection from the floor. Anderson redeemed himself, scoring back-to-back field goals to give the Pelicans a 34-28 lead.

The Rockets struggled to score, particularly from three-point range. With 8:58 to play, the Pelicans went on a 7-2 run with Cole scoring four and Holiday converting on a reverse layup to put New Orleans up, 41-32.

While things favored the Pelicans, the Rockets responded with a run of their own. With 5:56 to play, Harden knocked down the first three pointer for the Rockets.

Mar 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts while playing against the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 100-95. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Before Harden’s three pointer, the Rockets were 0-for-16 from three-point range. After Davis added a free throw, the Rockets scored the next two baskets to trail New Orleans, 42-39.

Over the final four minutes, the Pelicans continued to score but committed some careless turnovers that allowed scoring opportunities for the Rockets. The Rockets attacked the baskets, getting Harden to the free throw line and Howard converting a three-point play to put the Rockets up 53-49.

Cole responded, hitting a well-defended jumper in the paint plus the free throw after being fouled. New Orleans trailed Houston at the half, 53-52.

At the half, the Pelicans shot 47 percent off 21-of-45 shooting from the floor and hit 40 percent (6-of-15) from beyond the arc.

Cole’s penetration and good shooting helped the Pelicans tremendously in the first half, leading New Orleans in points with 18 at the break. Sloppy turnovers hurt the Pelicans in the second quarter, keeping the Rockets in the game.

 Points in the paint helped Houston in a major way with the three ball not falling in the first half. The Rockets shot 10 percent off 2-of-20 shooting from three-point range.

The Rockets, however, outscored the Pelicans in the paint, 34-22, a big reason why Houston remained in the game. The Rockets shot 47 percent off 20-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Pelicans came out on fire to open the second half, hitting four three pointers to take a 64-57 lead within the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Following an early timeout in the quarter, the Rockets responded with an 8-2 run to take a 67-66 lead with 4:16 to play. The teams continued to exchange baskets for the remainder of the quarter. The teams were tied at 76 to end the third.

New Orleans returns home for tomorrow’s matchup as the Pelicans take on the San Antonio Spurs. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center…….