NEW ORLEANS (AP) — James Harden capped a 26-point performance with a tiebreaking jumper with 28 seconds left, and the Houston Rockets held on for their third straight victory, 103-100 over the reeling New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Eric Gordon scored a season-high 35 points, but the Pelicans lost their seventh straight.
Terrence Jones scored 25 and Dwight Howard added 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Rockets, who trailed by as many as 17 in the second quarter and by eight with about four minutes to go. Harden had a hand in 12 of Houston’s final 17 points, scoring 10 and assisting on Howard’s alley-oop dunk.
Anthony Davis added 24 points for New Orleans, his sixth straight game with 20 or more, but Darius Miller missed a potential tying 3 in the final seconds.
Jason Smith and Brian Roberts each added 10 points for New Orleans, but Smith missed a potential tying jumper from the top of the key with 12 seconds left. Chandler Parsons who had 17 points, then made one of two free throws for the final margin.
The Rockets made things difficult for themselves by missing 16 of 41 free throws, and won despite leading for only 1:14 the entire game.
The Pelicans led by 12 early in the third quarter after Davis’ jump shot, but Davis then committed three fouls in the span of 1:34, giving him four for the game and prompting coach Monty Williams to bring his star forward to the bench.
Less than four minutes after Davis left the game, his former Kentucky teammate, Jones, tied the game at 68. But New Orleans managed to regain momentum, thanks to a pair of 3s by Gordon, and led 81-74 heading into the final period.
With New Orleans missing three top players in Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the stage appeared set for an easy Houston victory.
It appeared it could be another long night for the Pelicans when Howard took an alley-oop lob from Harden and slammed it home with two hands on the opening play of the game.
Yet New Orleans wound up dominating the first quarter on both ends of the court, from Smith’s crowd-pleasing block of Parsons’ driving dunk attempt to Davis’ windmill jam and his 14-foot jumper as he was fouled.
Gordon had 14 points, including a pair of 3s, in the first quarter, and New Orleans led 30-19 when the period ended.
Gordon scored 22 points before halftime, and New Orleans took its largest lead when Al-Farouq Aminu scored five straight points on a 3-pointer and two free throws to make it 44-27.
The Rockets were back within 51-43 when Harden’s no-look, behind-the-head pass set up Donatas Motiejunas’ easy layup. But Davis responded with a jump hook, Gordon added a free throw and New Orleans led 56-45 at halftime.
Notes: Houston finished its four-game road trip at 3-1 and returns home to host Oklahoma City on Thursday night. … The Rockets have won five of six against New Orleans. … Houston outshot New Orleans 51.4 percent (37 of 72) to 45.5 percent (35 of 77). … New Orleans had not previously lost this season when leading by 17 in any point of a game.