Hobbled Pelicans Suffer Late Loss in Houston
Nobody expected the Pelicans to beat the Houston Rockets without their top seven scorers, but last minute losses hurt regardless of the circumstances.
Playing only eight players, which was more like seven with Darius Miller in constant foul trouble, the Pelicans had the Rockets reeling for the majority of the game. A 14-2 run in the midst of a season high 39-point second quarter put the Pelicans up 59-46 heading into the locker room.
The offensive firepower just wasn't enough to keep up with Houston down the final stretch as the Rockets responded with a 39-point quarter of their own in the fourth. Inspired performances from several Pelicans bench players had the fans in Houston fearing a playoff spoiler, but the river ran dry.
Despite the loss, Head Coach Monte Williams was pleased with his team's grit, "We had eight guys available tonight and everybody just scrapped, and I thought some of our guys got a bit tired."
Austin Rivers registered one of his best performances in a Pelicans jersey with a 20 point, 10 rebound double-double, to go with six assists and only one turnover in the loss. The bench players-turned starters due to injury showed up big.
Mop-topped forward Luke Babbitt slashed the Rockets for 24 points and seven boards, while Alexis Ajinca outmatched Dwight Howard in both scoring and rebounds. Add 20 points from Anthony Morrow and you get a highly impressive performance, but it wasn't enough.
Bearded star James Harden went off for 33 points and 13 assists, handing out key assists down the stretch for three-pointers to Patrick Beverley. Harden and Jeremy Lin put in consecutive wide open layups to take the lead and add to it with about one minute to go, and they held it until the buzzer.
The Pelicans fall to 32-48 on the season and have now lost eight straight, while the Rockets improve to 53-27 and stay one game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers for the fourth seed in the West.
It's going to be hard to win without your top seven scorers, but a "moral victory" doesn't make a long plane ride any sweeter.