The New Orleans Pelicans’ arrival at the conclusion offered an all-too-familiar refrain, despite the fact that the wild shifts in momentum did little to provide a clear view of the upcoming outcome.
The New Orleans Pelicans conceded a 16-point second-half lead and lost 114-112 to the Houston Rockets on Friday, the first of two games against Houston. The Pelicans were in desperate need of a victory to keep up with a group of Western Conference teams vying for a spot in the play-in tournament.
The Toyota Center will host the second match on Sunday.
The Pelicans (33-37), who had been 3-8 since the All-Star break, were one half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers, who were in 10th place in the West going into Saturday, thanks to the defeat.
After taking a 14-point lead in the first quarter, New Orleans went on an incredible 22-0 run, losing by eight points. A dunk by Herb Jones with 2:13 left in the third made it 89-73.
The Pelicans were unable to maintain their lead despite strong performances from Jonas Valanciunas (22 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 blocks) and Brandon Ingram (31 points, 6 assists). And keeping in mind that New Orleans has 12 games left to take advantage of a chance to expand its season, each misfortune at this late stage feels particularly corrective. It is necessary to emotionally recover quickly.
By riding a sudden wave of self-assurance, the Rockets succeeded. Houston has won a season-best three games and moved up to 5-3 after snapping an 11-game losing streak.
The Rockets (18-52) responded to every time the Pelicans appeared to regain control. In addition, Houston found contributions from every angle, a reflection of the current game.
While Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, and Jabari Smith Jr. all hit crucial jumpers in the fourth quarter, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Alperen Sengun fueled the comeback in the final period. Smith hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left.
Before Porter took over, Martin and Sengun scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the fourth. Porter’s transition 3-pointer with 2:13 left after his steal cut the lead to 110-107. With 35.8 seconds remaining, Green hit a 22-footer off of a Porter inbound pass to bring Houston within one, but Smith won the game as the third option on the final play.
Smith had been lamenting his inability to secure a defensive rebound just a few moments earlier, which would have allowed the Pelicans to extend their final possession. In an amazing demonstration of versatility, Smith shook off that low second and conveyed when Houston required him to, one more demonstration of development.