And just like that, the good vibes from Friday night are gone.
The first quarter went just like any regular fan of this team would expect: Despite a few hiccups of their own, the Pelicans largely dominated the competition out of the gates.
Thanks to the offense smartly deciding to attack the paint through Steven Adams’ mismatch over Christian Wood, New Orleans established a rhythm quickly. Soon thereafter, the perimeter shots opened up and the three-ball started to go down.
The Pelicans converted 2/3’s of their field goal attempts in the first quarter, which included six made three-pointers, but they also committed seven turnovers. It was a mildly disappointing display, coming on the heels of just nine turnovers overall in their victory over the Bucks last night.
However, the real gut punch was delivered in the second quarter.
With 4:29 left in the first half, the game was tied 48-48. At halftime, the Rockets held a commanding 75-57 lead. The defense gave up an astronomical 27 points in the final four and a half minutes of the second quarter! We’ve seen some awful defensive stretches this season, but that probably takes the cake.
Houston is not an offensive juggernaut, ranking 21st in offense upon arrival in New Orleans. Although they shoot a lot of threes on the season, they’re not typically accurate, shooting 34.8% from deep before tonight (23rd in the league). They wound up with nine made triples in the second quarter, and added 7 of 8 free throws to boot.
The Pelicans simply bowed down, as the energy and determination of the Rockets were clearly superior for the larger portion of the action. Of course, a young team coming off a hard fought — and probably somewhat emotionally draining — big win from 24 hours earlier might have had something to do with tonight’s meltdown.
In the third quarter, the Pelicans made a charge, closing the deficit to a 9-point gap, but then Jaxson Hayes was whistled for a Flagrant 1 on a shot contest of DeMarcus Cousins from the three-point line, killing all the momentum.
The Pelicans never put together a sustained run for the remainder of the game, as the Rockets were able to keep them at arm’s length the rest of the way.
New Orleans just couldn’t find the range from deep. After making 6 of 11 through the first 12 minutes, the Pelicans made 6 of 30 from behind the arc the rest of the way.
Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 26 points, but it was a relatively inefficient night by his recent standards, making 11 of 19 field goal attempts. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Ingram both scored 15 points, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 13 off the bench
With the blowout, Kira Lewis Jr. saw some good action, appearing in the game’s final ten minutes. He finished with 10 points on just five shot attempts, including 2-2 from three-point land, and yes, we want more Kira in the future.
Kira with the stepback. Give us more, Kira. pic.twitter.com/QRZVGQE9kp— The Bird Calls (@TheBirdCallsNO) January 31, 2021
And hey, we finally got our first look at Wenyen Gabriel. He was held scoreless in seven minutes, grabbing three rebounds.
For the second game in a row, JJ Redick was a healthy scratch.
In roughly the span of 24 hours, the New Orleans Pelicans enjoyed a 131-126 win over the championship-contending Bucks but then fell 126-1112 to the post-James Harden era Rockets.
Life comes at you fast if you follow the New Orleans Pelicans.