Pelicans rally in fourth quarter to get needed win at Houston
Houston is totally rebuilding.
The Rockets experienced the woes of a 20-game losing streak not too long ago.
With the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans in town, the Rockets saw a chance at a rare win.
With the talent-depleted Rockets the opposition, the Pelicans saw a chance to pick up a win, despite missing to many key players.
New Orleans started a lineup of Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, James Johnson, Jaxson Hayes and Steven Adams.
While Ball and Adams returned from injuries, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were joined by Kira Lewis on the injured list, missing the game. Lewis has a strained calf.
To add injury to insult, Nickeil Alexander-Walker left the game with a lower leg injury and would not return.
Then, with a four-point lead and 1:24 to play, Ball went down with what appeared to be cramps.
Still, New Orleans was able to overcome, resurrecting itself from a second half deficit on Resurrection Day in a 122-115 victory.
Ball was a big part of the story, making a career high eight 3-pointers, sinking 8-of-15 from beyond the arc. Ball finished with 27 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals, overcoming six turnovers.
The Pelicans had balance, with seven players in double figures.
Johnson came up big, playing an outstanding all-around game with 18 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals.
Bledsoe had 19 points while Adams finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Hayes had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Naji Marshall had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists in a solid performance off the bench.
The biggest part of the story was Billy Hernangomez, who came up huge in the fourth quarter.
Hernangomez took advantage of a size advantage against small Houston defenders and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Hernangomez was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.
New Orleans shot 57.1 percent in the final quarter by pounding the ball inside.
Hayes made his first 3-point attempt on his first 3-point attempt of the season in the first quarter, a right corner shot.
Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the first quarter as New Orleans grabbed a solid 38-27 lead.
The story of the quarter was Ball, who went 4-for-4 from 3-point range with two assists and two steals.
The Pelicans shot 13-of-23 (56.5%) from the field in the quarter, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
Houston was 5-of-9 (55.6%) from 3-point range in the period.
The Pelicans maintained the 11-point lead at 70-59 at halftime, winning the boards 31-22 over the smaller Rockets while Houston committed 11 turnovers.
New Orleans had four players in double figures in the half, led by Johnson, who had 13 points and four rebounds, along with Adams, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Then came the third quarter.
The Pelicans were blitzed 33-19 in the third quarter, going cold and failing to get stops against a far less than stellar Rockets squad. The issue for New Orleans was settling for long-distance shots, attempting 13 shots from 3-point range in the period before finally figuring out to go inside against a small team in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans won the final quarter 33-23.
Hernangomez came up big in the clutch, going 5-of-5 from the field for 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Marshall and Wes Iwundu each hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch.
It is looking like New Orleans made a good, make that very good trade with Dallas, getting Johnson, Iwundu and a second-round draft pick for JJ Redick, who was not having a good season and Nico Melli, who was a non-factor.
The Pelicans clinched the season series with Houston, winning it for the first time since 2011.
New Orleans moved into the 11th spot in the Western Conference, a game behind slumping Golden State, moving a half game ahead of Sacramento.
Next comes a rematch with the Hawks in Atlanta on Tuesday before a brutal assignment the next night at Brooklyn.
It certainly doesn’t get any easier.
In fact, it gets a lot harder.
The Pelicans, even short-handed, made it hard on themselves for a while but figured things out in time to get a much-needed win.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…