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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 Pelicans, 110-99

POSTED: January 31, 2024 -- 11:25 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 110-99 Wednesday night. The Rockets trailed 84-79 after three quarters but a 15-0 Pelicans' run in the first 5 plus minutes of the 4th quarter doomed the Rockets' chances at a victory.

"I think guys missed shots early and kind of their head," Ime Udoka, Rockets Head Coach, said after the game. "Some guys had tough nights and didn't play well. It's tough when a lot of guys aren't playing well overall."

Jabari Smith Jr. had a very off night for him. He missed all six of his field goal attempts (plus zero free throw attempts) and only grabbed 1 rebound in 21 minutes and 48 seconds.

Rockets' center Alperen Sengün lost his battle with Pelicans' big man Jonas Valanciunas.

Sengün made 4 of 11 field goal attempts (2 for 2 free throws) and scored 10 points Wednesday night compared to Valanciunas' 25 points on 10 for 15 field goal shooting (5 for 9 free throws).

Sengün did add 10 rebounds; however, Valanciunas pulled down 14 boards.

"They win today. He played harder than me," Sengün said of Valanciunas.

Houston (22-25) trailed New Orleans 33-25 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Jalen Green scored 13 points in the first quarter. Green made 5 of Houston's 9 field goals in the opening quarter.

New Orleans (27-21) shot a blistering 59.1 fg% (13 for 22) including 6 for 12 from three in the first quarter.

Green (7 points in 7 minutes) and Rockets' rookie Cam Whitmore (8 points in 5:43) combined for 15 of the Rockets' 29 points in the second quarter. Houston outscored New Orleans 29-28 in the second 12 minutes; but, the Pelicans still shot 55.0 fg% (11 for 20) in the quarter.

Houston trailed 61-54 at halftime.

In the first 4 minutes of the third quarter, New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram scored 6 of the Pelicans' 10 points during a 10-3 run which increased Houston's deficit to 14 (71-57).

Jalen Green, once again, sparked Houston's offense. Green scored 8 points in the third and helped the Rockets outscore the Pelicans 22-13 the final 8 minutes to trail 84-79 heading to the fourth quarter.

The first 5:53 of the 4th quarter could not have gone any worse for the Rockets. Houston went scoreless -- missed 8 field goal attempts plus 2 turnovers -- while the Pelicans made 6 of 8 attempts during a 15-0 run which boosted Houston's deficit to 20 (99-79) with 6:23 remaining in the 4th quarter.

Fred VanVleet hit an 18-foot jumper to end Houston's scoring drought. VanVleet added 5 more points during an 18-6 run by the Rockets. When Dillon Brooks hit a 3 with 2:04 on the clock, Houston trailed by just 8 (105-97).

"Until Fred hit that open shot, I think we got some decent looks," Coach Udoka said of the Rockets' scoreless drought in the 4th. "They dared us to shoot threes tonight; and, we didn't make them."

After a timeout by New Orleans, Pelicans' forward Trey Murphy III hit a corner 3; Jalen Green and Sengun missed shots; then, Valanciunas got a dunk for a 13 point lead (110-97) with 55.5 seconds left in the ball game.

The Rockets made 13 of 44 (29.5 3pt%) three-point shots Wednesday night.

Jalen Green scored a game-high 31 points. Green shot 11 for 20 from the floor (5 for 12 threes) and 4 for 4 from the foul line. He has scored 30+ three times over the past four games after doing so twice prior this season.

"(We) just got to bring the same energy every night," Jalen said in the locker room after the game. "The energy we had against the Lakers; it has to be every night."


The Rockets lost despite having a season-low 5 turnovers. That is the fewest turnovers Houston has committed since having 5 vs. Charlotte on 2/4/20 and ties for the third-lowest total in franchise history (4 turnovers twice).

Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points with 14 rebounds tonight, marking his 25th double-double of the season. He scored a total of 25 points in the first two games against the Rockets. New Orleans improves to 9-2 when Valanciunas scores 18+ points this season.

Brandon Ingram had 24 points and 10 rebounds. It is his third double-double of the season, all of which have come over the past seven games. During that span, Ingram is averaging 21.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 6.7 apg.

The Rockets were outrebounded 56-29 Wednesday night.


The Rockets' next game is Friday, February 2, at home, against the Toronto Raptors. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Central Time.

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