A strong first and fourth quarter wasn’t enough as the New Orleans Pelicans suffered a crushing 95-93 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets in the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday night.
The Pelicans started out the game on fire and led 34-19 after one, but couldn’t find the range during the next two periods as the Rockets took control. Houston outscored New Orleans 59-36 in the middle two quarters before holding on for the win.
With the loss, the Pelicans’ playoff hopes are getting very slim. They are three and a half games out of the last playoff stop in the west held by the Oklahoma City Thunder with just 11 games to play.
James Harden led the way for the Rockets in the return of Dwight Howard. Harden finished with 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting from the field to go along with a game-high 10 assists, and six rebounds. Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas also had monster showings in the win. Ariza totaled 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the floor with nine rebounds, five assists and three steals while Motiejunas had 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two steals. Howard managed just four points on 2-for-3 shooting with seven rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes of action.
Tyreke Evans was back on the floor for the Pelicans and did most of the damage on the offensive end with a game-high 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the floor, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. He added seven assists, two rebounds and two steals but also had a game-high six turnovers. Anthony Davis also had a big night for New Orleans with 24 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, but made just 6-of-14 attempts from the charity stripe. He added 14 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 44 minutes. The only other player to reach the double figure mark in scoring on the night was Quincy Pondexter who ended up with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
Jimmer Fredette did not play as coach Monty Williams used just eight players in the loss. While not shocking, it was a curious move considering the offensive struggles that guards Eric Gordon and Norris Cole had in the game. Gordon finished with just six points on 0-for-5 shooting from the field with three assists in 42 minutes while Cole had four points on 2-for-9 shooting from the floor, including 0-for-2 from distance with two assists and two turnovers in 18 minutes.
On the season, Fredette is averaging 3.8 points on the strength of 95.6 percent shooting from the free-throw line with 1.2 assists and nearly a rebound in 10.6 minutes a game.
Up next for Fredette and the Pelicans is a Friday night matchup with the Sacramento Kings.