New Orleans (11-23) faced a Rockets team which went without its core three of Clint Capela, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Even still, Houston’s remaining pieces were able to test the Pelicans’ momentum and focus through the first 36 minutes. However, the final 12 were a different story.
In place of Westbrook and Harden, former New Orleans guards Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon led the opposing backcourt. Gordon and Lonzo Ball traded threes to open the game, as Ball went on to score 14 of the team’s first 25 points. It was the most points he’s scored in a single quarter throughout his NBA career. Ball was averaging 10.2 points per game entering his 17-point first half Sunday and went four-for-six behind the arc in the first frame.
“I’m just getting my legs back,” Ball said after the win. “I had been out pretty much nine months before I got here. I’m just trying to do what I can do to help my team out. The defense is picking up as well.”
“I’m glad that we won,” Ball continued. “That’s the most important thing to me, but it was a good overall effort by myself tonight.”
The Pelicans led by as many as nine in the first quarter, but Houston out-scored them by double figures over the last seven minutes (26-16). New Orleans took pride in defending the long ball over this recent stretch of success yet allowed the Rockets to stack up double-figure makes in the first half while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Something was bound to give.
“We didn’t feel like they could continue to shoot at that rate,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “So we just kept right on playing. I thought we got out and ran and did what we needed to do. You’re always going to miss guys. I think you can’t judge anything other than how you play and how you approach the game.”
Ball, who finished with 27 points, 10 boards and eight dimes, nailed one of a career-high seven three pointers to send the game to halftime locked at 64 following seven ties and six lead changes. Houston only made a trio of three-point shots for the remainder of the game, so Gentry was right. It didn’t scare away the typical third-quarter lulls, though. The Rockets jumped out to a 7-0 run to start the third and finished the quarter ahead by the same margin.
But this is where New Orleans decided to run them off the court — specifically the legend of Uncle E. Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore hit his second three in a minute’s span to help the Pelicans cut the deficit to within one point with nine and a half minutes left to play. Out of the ensuing timeout, Moore made another three, provided Holiday a putback dunk attempt, and then found bottom net on one of his patented floaters.
Jrue Holiday puts them on their feet!— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) December 30, 2019
And E'Twaun is up to 25, his season-high. He has brought them back after every Rocket run tonight. pic.twitter.com/NmtiZFmOR9
“They came out playing hard, playing shorthanded,” Moore said. “They were playing balls out. In the fourth quarter, I saw the score and was like ‘yeah, we have to pick it up.’ So it was good to make some shots and help us build a lead.”
New Orleans ultimately went on an 18-3 run to start the fourth and took command behind a 14-point quarter from Moore. The Pelicans scored 41 points across the final twelve minutes and held Houston under 20 in the same stretch.
Holiday added 12 points during the final period while both he and Moore contributed 25 points respectively and combined for nine assists. Brandon Ingram tied Ball as the leading scorer with 27 points alongside six rebounds and four assists.
In case you missed the math, New Orleans had Moore, Ball, Holiday and Ingram combine to score 104 of the Pels 127 points. It’s the first time in franchise history that four players have each topped 25 points in a single game.
First time in franchise history with four 25-point scorers in the same game & the first time in the NBA since 2006, per @ESPNStatsInfo @ZO2_ 27 pts, 10 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 7 3PM@B_Ingram13 27 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast@Jrue_Holiday11 25 pts, 5 ast, 4 3PM@ETwaun55 25 pts, 4 ast, 5 3PM pic.twitter.com/qESnI9YIVH— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 30, 2019
Despite ranking in the 99th percentile of points per 100 shot attempts this year, JJ Redick went 0-for-3 in his 18 minutes of play. Derrick Favors put up his seventh double-double of the season at 12 points and 16 rebounds.