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Pelicans waste 40-point effort from Ingram in 118-108 loss to Rockets

New Orleans continues to seemingly alternate good performances with duds

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The rollercoaster ride continues for this New Orleans Pelicans basketball team and they sadly wasted one of the best individual performances of Brandon Ingram’s career.

After beating the Mavericks handily a few days ago, the Pelicans lost 118-108 to the Rockets in Houston Sunday night despite the fact that Ingram topped the 40-point plateau for just the third time in his career.

Houston entered this matchup playing well, flying high on a five-game winning streak, but to be fair, New Orleans didn’t play with the necessary force or focus to put themselves in position for the potential victory.

Christian Wood had it going in the first half and then Eric Gordon was rolling in the third quarter. Neither player felt the Pelicans defensively even after all attention spans should have been glued to their movements.

The same could be said about Houston’s 3-point shooting all night.

The Rockets like to shoot the outside shot. They rank 9th in the league in 3-point attempts. Unfortunately, those looks consistently came far too easily and they wound up making 17 of 40 3s. (Meanwhile, the Pelicans made only 10 of 38 from deep.)

Lastly, New Orleans failed to adjust to how tightly this referee group was calling this contest — though granted there were some awfully bad calls made that should have never drawn a whistle.

Thanks to new league rules, referees are allowing for more contact this season. So a number of mere light touches not involved in shooting motions probably shouldn’t have been whistled as personal fouls. However, the Pelicans could have tried to adjust by not sticking their hands into the cookie jar as often, bumping players needlessly out on the perimeter, etc.

One felt the Pelicans needed to overly rely on the defense again soon after the ball was tipped. They missed their first four shot attempts. They went without a made field goal for a stretch of 5+ minutes between the first and second quarters. Devonte’ Graham started 0-5 from the field, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Trey Murphy III combined to go 0-11 in the first 17 minutes of the game.

The Rockets had a 56.4 FG% at halftime. The Pelicans, 36.7%. However, New Orleans’ deficit was only eight points, giving hope that perhaps the coaching staff could iron out some issues during intermission.

Regrettably, they were unable to discover the necessary rhythm on both ends of the floor in the second half.

Every time the Pelicans would creep to within six or seven points of the lead, the Rockets would answer right back with four or five points of their own. Houston stuck to that recipe for the rest of the game, also living comfortably from the free throw line.

Brandon Ingram’s final line sparkles (40 points, five rebounds, four assists) and he was spectacular from start to finish. In the first half, he tallied 19 points on 14 shots.

Over the last four games, Ingram has looked the part of an All-Star in averaging 30 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and flashing a stellar shooting split (54.2 FG% / 38.1 3PT% / 81.5 FT%).

Jonas Valanciunas (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Willy Hernangomez (10 points, 14 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles for a second straight game.

The biggest and most unexpected highlight was delivered by Tomas Satoransky, dunking the ball furiously with his off-hand in the second quarter.

The Rockets received a lot of balanced scoring as eight players finished with at least nine points. As mentioned earlier, Eric Gordon (23 points and five assists) and Christian Wood (23 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) led the way for Houston.

With this loss, the Pelicans drop to the cellar in the Western Conference with a 7-19 record overall. They’ll have two days to get things back on track before welcoming the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.