Anthony Davis went up for an uncontested defensive rebound with 1:06 remaining in the second quarter and the New Orleans Pelicans up 58-56. It should have been a fairly innocuous play except Tyreke Evans was also in hot pursuit of the rebound. The two players collided in the air with an Evans elbow connecting to AD's head around the ear and Davis went down in a heap immediately. Play continued for a short time until the Rockets made a layup and time could be call. Davis remained on the floor for a time before heading directly into the locker room.
That injury marred an otherwise spectular second quarter led by Jrue Holiday on defense and Ryan Anderson on offense. Holiday was transcendent on both ends in the first half, quickly turning around a nine point deficit when he entered halfway through the first quarter to a two point lead as the second quarter came to a close. On offense he was operating the pick and roll with Anthony Davis to perfection turning in two gorgeous lobs. Defensively he was out to trim the Beard and made James Harden's night miserable. At one point an obvious layup for Holiday after stripping Harden clean was called off for a shot clock violation on the Rockets.
Love seeing these @AntDavis23 dunks. pic.twitter.com/49BOZ5VSDB— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 26, 2016
Anderson was superb himself scoring 16 points and collecting 6 rebounds in the first half alone while leading the Pelicans in +/- at +11. Houston, without Dwight Howard, went small all game and that led to wings guarding Anderson all game long. Ryno answered by hitting the offensive glass and into the post. Still, he was cooking behind the arc knocking in two of his four attempts.
How would the Pelicans respond without their superstar? As poorly as possible. Houston opened the third quarter on an 18-0 run in the first three and a half minutes. Tyreke Evans was terrible and is probably injured. Thankfully these Rockets lack heart and let New Orleans right back into the game after Toney Douglas checked in the game for Evans. Douglas was ABSOLUTELY ON FIRE and a 16 point deficit was cut to one at the end of the third quarter thanks in part to this buzzer beater from Norris Cole.
The bank was open for @pg30_Cole with this third quarter buzzer beater. pic.twitter.com/hou8OPwv4b— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 26, 2016
That hot shooting disappeared in the fourth quarter. Just two points were scored, combined, in the first three minutes despite the Pelicans creating a number of quality shots. Bryce Dejean-Jones got minutes while Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca gathered dust on the bench. While I understand Asik had no place in this game with Houston going small all night I think Ajinca could have feasted in the post with an opportunity.
Jrue Holiday was the best player on the court tonight. Period. Full stop. 32 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds to go along with sublime defense on James Harden. Struggles at the free throw line by the entire team ultimately led to their downfall as Evans, Cole, and Alonzo Gee combined to go 0-8 from the charity stripe. Can't do that in a one point game.