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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets lose to Davis and Pelicans, 99-90

Posted: December 18, 2014 -- 10:50 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- If Anthony Davis isn't the best player in the NBA, (to borrow from the iconic O.A. Bum Phillips), it doesn't take long to call the roll. Davis displayed his numerous basketball skills Thursday night with 30 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, 3 assists, and 2 steals to guide the New Orleans Pelicans to a 99-90 victory of the Houston Rockets.

After coming off an overtime win Wednesday night in Denver, the Rockets (19-6) seemed sluggish much of Thursday's game. However, Kevin McHale would not use the back-to-back games as an excuse.

"We didn't play very well tonight," McHale said matter-of-fact. "It had nothing to do with last night. Last night's game is over."

Donatas Motiejunas added, "I don't think it (playing last night) matters. Every team experiences playing back-to-backs. You still have to find a way with energy and mental toughness to win the game."

The Rockets struggled to make shots in the first quarter. Houston made just 8 of 22 field goals in the period while the Pelicans made 9 of their 20 field goals (45.0%); however, thanks to 3 three-point baskets, the Rockets led 22-21 at the end of the game's first 12 minutes.

Davis scored 13 of the Pelicans' 21 points.

New Orleans (13-12) owned the glass in the second quarter (14-6) as well as made 6 of 7 free throws (compared to just 1 for 1 foul shooting for the Rockets) to outscore the Rockets 25 to 17 in the second quarter.

Both teams struggled from the floor in the third quarter; but, the Rockets sank all 11 free throws in the period to counter 28.6% (8 for 28) field goal shooting. Plus, the Rockets only turned the ball over one time in the third while the Pelicans turned the ball over six times. Houston's defense limited the Pelicans to just 19 points in the third.

After James Harden picked up his 4th foul, three-point specialist, Troy Daniels, checked into the game for Harden with 4:18 left in the quarter. Daniels nailed his first three-point attempt to trim the Rockets' deficit to one point (62-61). After Kostas Papanikolaou sank two free throws to tie the game at 63, Trevor Ariza converted a steal to a slam dunk for a 65-63 lead.

With 0.1 on the clock, Daniels capped off the third with a three-point bucket for a 68-65 Rockets' lead.

Dante Cunningham tied the game with a three-pointer to open the fourth. The game was tied at 70 and stayed nip-and-tuck for nearly two minutes before Ryan Anderson nailed a long three-point shot and sank two free throws to give the Pelicans a 79-73 lead at the 8:16 mark of the fourth period.

Ariza's dunk shrunk the deficit to four points (79-75); but, the Pelicans went on an 8-2 run to stretch the lead to 87-77 with 4:45 remaining.

The Rockets managed to get within six points (87-81); but, Jrue Holiday's driving dunk and put-back layup increased the lead to 10 (91-81) with just 2:27 left in the ball game.

Harden scored a team-high 21 points (8 for 23 field goals) for the Rockets. Howard added 17 points and 13 rebounds. Trevor Ariza chipped in 10 points while Troy Daniels scored 9 points (3 for 4 on three) off the bench.

Davis' game-high 30 points led five Pelicans in double-digit scoring. Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday each scored 16 points. Dante Cunningham scored 15 and Austin Rivers scored 10.

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