James Harden shoots Rockets past Pelicans, 108-104

Harden shoots Rockets past Pelicans, 108-104

30/12/2018 at 15:48Updated 30/12/2018 at 16:21

Houston’s James Harden puts New Orleans back in the loss column just one day after Pelicans ended thei five-game losing streak …

Despite holding a slim lead throughout the start of the first quarter, woeful shooting from three-point range once again dug an early hole for New Orleans, who trailed by 30-20 at the end of the first quarter. A night after shooting 7.7 per cent (one of 13) in the first half in their come-from-behind win against the Dallas Mavericks (16-18), the Pelicans were one of eight from beyond the arch (12.5 per cent) after the first 12 minutes of play, while the Rockets hit six of 14 (43 per cent) by comparison.

New Orleans turned that around in the second quarter as Anthony Davis, who was held to eight points in the first half, hit a big three with 29 seconds to play. James Harden answered with a three of his own with five seconds to play, but Tim Frazier tipped in at the buzzer to pull the Pelicans to within three at the half — 53-50.

New Orleans would go on to take a two-point lead (72-70) lead in the final minute of the third, but ultimately could not find a solution for James Harden, who finished the night with 41 points, nine rebounds and six assists, despite not making a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game.

“That is what it is about,” said Harden, who recorded his ninth consecutive game with 30-plus points. “Build on every game and get better. I think our bench did a really good job of creating the pace and creating opportunities for our defense. They did a great job, D-House (Danuel House Jr.), and great team effort.”

“I just try to continue to be aggressive. Be aggressive and have confidence in the shots and things I do on the court. There is no other way to put it.”

The Pelicans coach was positive despite the loss.

“I thought we did a really good job defensively,” said Gentry after the game. “We say that, and (James) Harden gets 40 (points), but that doesn’t bother us because we knew that was a possibility.

“I thought we did a good job everywhere else, but we just didn’t quite get over the hump with making a few plays down the stretch,” he continued. “We missed a couple of really easy shots, and they make a three-pointer. It’s just the way it is, but I was happy and thought we competed at a real high level.

“Their team shot 44% for the game. Even (James) Harden’s numbers, he was 10-for-24 (from the field). That’s the best you can hope for.”

Former Laker Julius Randle led the Pelicans with 23 points and 11 boards, followed by Davis with 22 and 11. Guards E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday also hit double digits in scoring with 21 and 20 respectively. The quartet combined for 86 of New Orleans’s 104 points on the night.

The Pelicans have lost three of their last 10 games, but remain 14th in the Western Conference — six and a half games ahead of last place Phoenix (9-27) — with a final game in a three-game home stand on Monday hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19) before heading back on the road Wednesday vs the Nets (17-21).

“We’ve just got to continue on,” said Gentry. “I am, and no one is going to make me believe that we are not going to get it turned around, and we are going to get some guys back healthy.

“Like I said, we’ll get guys back in the roles they’re comfortable in. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, and I think we are going to be okay.”