NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Christian Wood scored 27 points and the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to five games with a 126-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Victor Oladipo scored 20 points and John Wall added 15 for Houston, which shot 48.9%, led by 18 at halftime and did not allow the Pelicans to get within eight after that.
“We’re moving in the right direction, for sure,” said Rockets coach Stephen Silas, whose team has clawed back to .500 after a 4-9 start. “Now it seems like we’re pulling together on the defensive end especially, creating good offensive off defense, moving the ball and kind of doing the things that I envisioned us doing as a group.”
Wood, who played for New Orleans during part of the 2018-19 season, shot 11 of 13, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Oladipo and Wall each hit four 3s for Houston, which went 20 of 46 from deep.
“It starts with us defensively,” Wood said. “Once our defense started rolling, I felt like our offense started rolling. Guys started hitting shots, now we’re making extra passes. It’s great for us when we play like that.”
Zion Williamson had 26 points for the Pelicans, who looked sluggish at times after scoring 131 points in a victory over Milwaukee a night earlier.
“It’s one thing if a team’s hitting shots,” Williamson began. “But when they’re playing harder than us and hitting shots, we’re not even giving ourselves a chance.”
Brandon Ingram and Eric Bledsoe each scored 15 for New Orleans, which came in having won two straight.
Williamson hit three baskets during a 14-1 Pelicans run in the third quarter that briefly cut Houston’s lead to 86-78. But an unusual play soon after helped Houston take control for good.
Jaxson Hayes was called for a flagrant-1 foul for stepping into Cousins’ landing space as the Rockets’ power forward came down from a missed 3. Cousins landed on Hayes’ foot before falling to the floor. He got up and made two of three free throws, and the Rockets made it a 5-point possession on Jae’Sean Tate’s 3, which put Houston up 94-80. Houston’s lead eventually ballooned to 24.
“To me, defend, rebound, take care of the ball, and 90% of the time you’ll at least have a chance coming down at the end,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’re not defending and we’re sporadic when taking care of the ball. Well, it’s going to be hard to get any kind of consistency. It just is.”
Rockets: Former Pelican Eric Gordon scored 14 points and Tate finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. … The Rockets combined for 32 assists, nine by Wall.
“Guys are passing up good shots to get great shots,” Silas said. “The selflessness of the group is shining through and it’s a result of the roster that we have and the style of play that we have.”
Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander Walker scored 13 and Hayes 10. … Steven Adams left with a right calf injury which Van Gundy said did not appear serious. … First-round draft choice Kira Lewis Jr. saw action in his eighth game this season in the fourth quarter. He scored 10 points in 10 minutes, hitting both 3s he took. … JJ Redick did not play for a second straight game despite being healthy.
The Pelicans led by as many as 11 when Williamson’s 3 made it 35-24 late in the first quarter. New Orleans was still up 10 when Hayes threw down a reverse, two-handed alley-oop dunk on a fast-break lob from Josh Hart early in the second quarter.
But the Rockets began scoring seemingly at will. They scored 48 in the second quarter alone, the most points the Pelicans have ever allowed in that quarter of a game.
The Pelicans’ last lead evaporated on Oladipo’s 3 with 5:36 left in the second quarter, which tied it at 46. That basket marked the beginning of a 32-11 run to close out the half.
Oladipo hit three more 3s during that span, during which Wood hit two from deep, with Wall and Sterling Brown each hitting one.
Nothing embodied the Pelicans’ defensive slippage more than the final play of the half. With only seconds left, New Orleans didn’t pressure the ball in the backcourt, so Oladipo let the inbound pass roll across half court without burning any time off of the clock before picking it up and hitting an uncontested left-wing 3 to give the Rockets a 75-57 halftime lead.
Rockets: Visits Oklahoma City on Monday night for the first of two road games against the Thunder in three nights.
Pelicans: Host Sacramento on Monday night in the fourth of five straight home games.
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