Rockets come alive late, beat Pelicans

Rockets come alive late, beat Pelicans
January 15, 2014, 11:00 pm
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Rockets surge tops Pelicans

The Rockets didn’t make it easy on themselves, but managed to pull off an improbable 103-100 victory over the Pelicans. They had to overcome a 17-point deficit to do it after yet another sluggish start.

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, in fact, every player who scored for the Rockets scored in double figures. James Harden led the way with 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, eight coming in the final three minutes. Terrence Jones posted a new career-high 25 points, with 17 coming in the second half and also had a career-high tying six blocked shots.

Chandler Parsons had 17 points, Jeremy Lin added 13 points and Dwight Howard had 12 points and 11 rebounds. The only Rockets reserve to score was Donatas Motiejunas and he had 10 points in just under 18 minutes of action.

Houston leaned on Harden late and he delivered, hitting all three of his field goal attempts and all six of his free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. His last shot was the game-winner as he took a hand-off from Jeremy Lin, which forced Eric Gordon off of Harden and Austin Rivers on to him. Harden shook free of Rivers and took an uncontested step-back 22-foot jumper that found the bottom of the net.

“James made a big shot, he’s our closer,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “He did what closers do, he closed, and we needed it. We started off lethargic, they won all the 50-50 balls. We had to fight back the whole night and we never honestly got control of the game.”

Considering the Rockets held the lead for only one minute and 14 seconds, McHale is certainly on the money. Houston was outrebounded for the third consecutive game, but found a way to fight back. It was the team’s 2nd largest comeback victory of the season, trailing only their 19-point comeback win in Utah on Nov. 2. They’ve come back from at least 14 points three times this season, all three have come on the road.

For the second time in three games, Jones scored 17 second half points and his energy clearly helped to spark the Rockets in the final 24 minutes.

“He’s just high energy, “McHale said. “Terrence is strong enough and has enough lift and is long enough to play up with those guys, with Davis and those guys. He just made high energy plays that we needed badly.”

Houston was playing without Pat Beverley (hand), Omer Asik (knee), Greg Smith (knee) and also Aaron Brooks (knee) missed tonight’s game. But the Pelicans were without Ryan Anderson (herniated disc), Jrue Holiday (broken leg) and Tyreke Evans (ankle).

Eric Gordon stepped up and had his best game in a Pelicans uniform with 35 points on 11-of-17 shooting. But he managed just one bucket in the final quarter, and the rest of the team struggled to score.

“We scrambled around and found a way to win,” McHale said. “It was a dogfight out there all night.”