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Eric Gordon keeps the Pelicans in it with hot shooting, Jrue Holiday finishes off James Harden with sublime defense

After a terrible first quarter defensively the Pelicans got it together just in time to pull out a win.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Houston Rockets tonight 110-108 with defense. No, seriously. Let me explain.

Everything about the first quarter was disorienting. Eric Gordon could not miss, scoring eight straight points on his way to an impressive night. When the Pelicans did get a shot off, it was going through the hoop as they went 12-17 from the field. Sadly, there were a lot of possessions that ended in a turnover. New Orleans committed seven turnovers; Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans led the way with two a piece. Still a number of possessions resulted in quizzical looks and finger pointing as the players, Evans most obviously, simply do not know the playbook.

Houston scored 10 points in the paint, another 24 (!) behind the arc, and nine more from the foul line on their way to 41 in the first quarter alone. If you read the game preview defending those three areas were our keys to the game. New Orleans looked anything but organized. A number of those scores were a direct result of turnovers so hopefully with additional care maybe the Pelicans could turn it around as the game progressed.

Jrue Holiday took a turn at the controls in the second quarter and the turnovers abated while the pace of play increased significantly. Holiday, playing on the second night of a back-to-back for just the second time this season, looked comfortable and in command getting the ball and players moving more to Alvin Gentry's liking. However, the big run came with Holiday on the bench. Down 61-49 with three minutes remaining the Pelicans went on an impressive 14-1 run to take a lead going into halftime. The highlight was Ryan Anderson finishing a thunderous dunk with two hands although Eric Gordon's buzzer beater was also beautiful.

Patrick Beverley made three consecutive 3-pointers to start the third quarter as Houston seized control. Omer Asik (!?!) answered right back with four straight of his own (not 3-pointers, obviously) and the Pelicans refused to back down. When Asik checked out after nine minutes in the third quarter the Pelicans led 84-81. Dare I say the big man is starting to get healthy?

Former Hornet Marcus Thornton and Terrence Jones led a Rocket run to end the third and begin the fourth quarter. Alvin Gentry called a timeout with 7:48 remaining and the Pelicans down 103-94. A couple substitutions put a really weird lineup on the court; Norris Cole, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik. Gentry, an offensive coach, put four of his best (available) defenders on the floor instead of thinking offense. Would it pay off?

Hell. Yes.

Two and a half minutes later Eric Gordon checked in. The score was now 103-101 and the Pelicans had delivered four consecutive stops while scoring on three of their own possessions. Another stop and two free throws from Omer Asik (giving him 10 points for the game) brought the score even. Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson checked back into the game and it was Finishing Five time with the score 105-103.

James Harden always wanted a Jrue Holiday jersey. Instead, he wore an actual Jrue Holiday for the remainder of the game. Harden's only basket over Holiday, and the last of the game for the Rockets, was a difficult contested 3-pointer with Holiday's hand in his face. Rarely would Harden even attempt to get into the lane with Holiday blanketed on him. The one time he did, it went poorly. Holiday forced him into a difficult shot and Tyreke Evans came over to get the block.

The Pelicans ended this game on a 16-5 run spread over nearly eight minutes. Houston attempted just two shots at the rim during that time and both were blocked. Ty Lawson was turned away by Anthony Davis earlier in the period in addition to Tyreke's block mentioned above. The rest were long jumpers, often after multiple quality efforts on defense by New Orleans. This execution and communication is some of the best we've seen all season.

New Orleans will have one day off to rest and recover before traveling to face the Orlando Magic on Monday night. The Magic fell to the Miami Heat at home tonight after holding a solid lead in the fourth quarter. Orlando is 17-13 so far on the season and 10-6 at home, these aren't the Magic of old. The Pelicans would do well to remember the loss at the hands of these Magic back in November.