The New Orleans Pelicans (9-19) were blown out by the Houston Rockets (20-7) on the strength of the outside shot, 122-100. Mike D’Antoni’s enviable squad set new NBA three-point records for both makes (24) and attempts (61).
In his first regular season game since leaving New Orleans, Eric Gordon led the way with 7 made threes en route to 29 points. Nice statement game, eh? Not to be outdone, James Harden finished with his 6th triple-double of the season: 29 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
“James Harden is playing like an MVP candidate,” said Alvin Gentry after the game.
Yes, yes he is, and he’s in the process of rewriting Houston’s record books.
The Pelicans were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but it was embarrassing how easily and often the Rockets found open looks from beyond the arc. Similar to Gentry, I felt the Rockets could have wound up with plenty more makes as they missed a number of wide-open attempts. It’s no secret what Houston wants to do each and every game, yet New Orleans provided little to no resistance the majority of the time.
Gentry noted, “I didn’t think we started with the energy that was necessary to play a team like this.”
The head coach went on to mention the staff had listed two keys in pre-game preparation: Be good in transition defense and run them off the 3-point line. In addition to the incredible outside shooting display, the Rockets managed to score 21 fast break points, despite the fact that the Pelicans committed just 11 turnovers.
Late in the first quarter, the difference in the game was just 2 as the Rockets held a 25-23 edge. However, following a foul on Harden while in the act of attempting a three-pointer for a second time, the Rockets stepped on the gas. By the end of the first half, they led 72-50 — the most points the Pelicans had given up all season.
#Pelicans allow a season-high 72 points in the 1st half and trail the Rockets 72-50 at the half.— Daniel Sallerson (@dsallerson) December 17, 2016
Following halftime, Terrence Jones started for Anthony Davis. Moments later we learned Davis was questionable to return due to being kicked in his left lower leg. Yet, with the Pelicans trailing 75-58, he reappeared on the floor at the 8:26 mark of the third quarter.
AD never looked right, favoring the leg the entire time, but it wasn’t until he missed a rather simple lay-up in the open floor three minutes later did the coaching staff feel it appropriate to remove him from the game entirely.
In his post-game comments, Gentry stated AD could have played more minutes, but with the game out of hand, there was no reason to have him return. Davis finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 23 minutes of action.
My question is where was the disconnect to allow him to play after sustaining the injury in the first place? It was immediately obvious that he was not moving well, and with the Rockets in full control of the game, I fail to understand his reappearance in the second half. Either way, Gentry believes AD will be fine going forward.
As for the rest of the Pelicans, they didn’t do much — hence why the opening paragraphs of this recap concentrated on the Rockets’ performance.
Terrence Jones finished with a decent line (16 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block), but efficiency from the free throw line continues to evade him (2-6).
With Alexis Ajinca completely ineffective and Omer Asik benched for matchup reasons, Cheick Diallo got substantial run for just the second time this season. Good thing because he was the only Pelican to play with the requisite energy from start to finish. In 22 minutes, he tallied 10 points — missing just one shot — grabbed 7 rebounds and collected one assist and block.
Gentry loves the way Diallo plays with energy and stated it was, “another good learning experience.” It’s still early in the season, but I advocate Diallo start earning these learning experiences on a regular basis. Asik and Ajinca have failed to show any consistency during Gentry’s tenure so lets get a start on the future now.
Foul trouble limited Buddy Hield to 26 minutes, but he did manage to score 11 points and knock down 3 three-pointers.
Jrue Holiday struggled from the field, missing 10 of 15 shots (including 6 of 7 threes) and finished with 1 meager assist. Since his return from turf toe, his outside shot has been way off.
Since returning from a turf toe injury, Jrue Holiday is now 4-21 from three-point range.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) December 17, 2016
Tim Frazier, who was supposed to be out 7-10 days with a wrist injury, played 25 minutes and finished with 9 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 threes.
Prior to the game, the Pelicans announced Solomon Hill would not be available due to the birth of a child. Congrats, Solomon!