Harden's 14-foot jumper with 28 seconds left — set up when the
Pelicans switched on a pick-and-roll and left the shorter Austin
Rivers on the defensive end against the 6-foot-5 Harden — gave
Houston the lead for good, 102-100.
"I was reading what the other four players were doing, and they all
stayed home," Harden said, describing his open jumper over Rivers'
outstretched arms. "It was mano-a-mano. The coaches do a great job
of drawing up plays and putting me in great position to be
The Rockets (26-14) outscored the Pelicans 11-1 in the final 2:50,
erasing a 10-point New Orleans lead. That late surge sent the
Pelicans (15-23) to their seventh consecutive loss. Forward Terrence
Jones added 25 points for Houston.
Gordon scored 22 of his season-high 35 points in the first half, but
he was held to just one field goal in the fourth quarter — a
20-foot jumper — as the Rockets began blitzing him on the
pick-and-roll and forcing him to give up the ball.
"We tried to get the ball out of Gordon's hands," said Houston coach
Kevin McHale. "He was a handful tonight. We were trying to trap him
on any pick-and-roll. We were just trying to get the ball out of his
hands and have him make plays for others."
Missing three major players who produce an average of 50 points per
game — forward Ryan Anderson, point guard Jrue Holiday and guard
Tyreke Evans — the Pelicans had only one other consistent scoring
option besides Gordon in forward Anthony Davis. But Davis' 24 points
weren't enough to get the Pelicans over the hump.
"It's especially tough when there's so much attention on Eric and
A.D.," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "Other guys have to knock
down shots. When Eric's getting trapped like that, it should be
easier for everybody, and it just wasn't. We just didn't knock down
While Gordon and Davis were a combined 19 of 24 from the floor, the
rest of the Pelicans went 16 of 53 (30.1 percent).
Gordon did not score in the final 5:38, and, with his team
down 103-100, he did not touch the ball on the final possession.
Forward Darius Miller had an open look at a 3-pointer from the
right wing, but the ball clanged off the iron. Miller was 1 of 6
on the night.
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"We were just trapping Gordon and getting the ball out of his
hands," Harden said. "He had it rolling, and we had to do
something to kind of slow him down and make him be a passer.
Credit to CP (Chandler Parker) and our bigs. They did a good job
of containing him and making him pass the ball, and we got some
turnovers and some easy baskets."
Gordon said it was tough going from a force — scoring 33 points
in the first three quarters — to little more than a decoy down
"Toward the end of the game, we were just trying to figure out
who could get the best shot off," Gordon said. "Whenever I
touched the ball at the end, they started double-teaming me. I
feel if a team plays me straight up, I could do this almost
every night. I've done it before."
When Pelicans guard Brian Roberts converted a three-point play
with 3:06 left, New Orleans led 99-92. But Harden hit a
coast-to-coast layup after a blocked shot and then made two free
throws, and Parsons hit a driving jumper in the lane to cut the
deficit to 99-98 with 1:33 left.
After a Gordon turnover, Harden gave Houston a 100-99 lead with
two foul shots with just under a minute left. Davis tied the
game at 100 by converting one of two free throws with 47 seconds
On the next possession, the Rockets worked the ball into
Harden's hands. He took one jab step and then nailed a 14-footer
over Rivers with 28 seconds left to give the Rockets the lead
NOTES: Rockets PG Aaron Brooks sat out the game with a sore left
knee. ... With PF Ryan Howard (herniated disk), PG Jrue Holiday
(stress fracture in right leg) and SG Tyreke Evans (sprained
left ankle) all out, the Pelicans are relying on PF Anthony
Davis for much more offense. Davis had recorded at least 20
points and 10 rebounds in four of his previous five games. "He's
looked like a different player," said Houston coach Kevin
McHale. "He's making a lot more shots; he's seemed aggressive
offensively and much more sure with the ball. Last year he
looked very uncertain, and this year he's looked very certain.
He's just way more confident." ... New Orleans coach Monty
Williams said Davis is ready to assume a larger offensive role.
"He's more than capable of taking on more," Williams said. "He's
going to have to learn how to play against the defense when it
tries to take him out. San Antonio loaded the paint (Monday
night), and that's when he needs to be a facilitator."
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