The Rockets played an up and down game Monday night in New Orleans, at one point going up by as many as 16 in the second half, only to see the lead slip away. But they still managed to come out on top due to some hot shooting from deep.
The Rockets set a new season-high with 19 triples, and Trevor Ariza remained scorching hot and set a second-consecutive season high with 31 points, including shooting 8-11 from deep. Ariza has now shot 19-31 from beyond the arc over the last three games.
The Rockets also got 35 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists from James Harden on 11-20 shooting, and he also hit a sweet step back with 34 seconds left to put Houston up by 3.
Harden followed that up by over dribbling into a shot clock violation with only 4 seconds left, but the Rockets were saved by a missed Jrue Holiday heave from half court as the buzzer went off. Norris Cole had hit a buzzer beater earlier to end the first half, so Holiday's last-second toss was anxiety-inducing to say the least.
This was a back and forth affair all the way through, with New Orleans holding a slim 60-58 lead heading into the break, but they lost Anthony Davis due to a concussion after he collided with a teammate, and the Rockets took advantage by opening up the 3rd quarter on an 18-0 run that pushed them out to a 76-60 lead.
The Rockets' bench, which was mostly awful all night, had no answer for the Pels' reserves, as they allowed Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Toney Douglas to shoot their way back in it. The Pelicans' bench outscored the Rockets' bench 79-20 on the night. No, that's not a misprint.
Holiday finished with 32, Anderson 22, and Douglas had 18.
Marcus Thornton had 12 points for the Rockets and led Houston's bench in plus-minus with a minus-19 (again, not a misprint), and Josh Smith contributed 4 rebounds and another 4 assists, but he also shot just 2-11 from the field and is now a combined 9-35 shooting since arriving back in Houston.
With the Rockets getting just 10 points from Capela and 0 from Terrence Jones, Houston's front court looked mostly overmatched, even with Davis missing half the game for New Orleans. Houston really could have used Dwight Howard tonight, especially when the offense bogged down later in the game. The Rockets went 6 minutes without a bucket in the second half, and having someone reliable to feed down low for an easy score could have helped when the shots suddenly went cold.
Ty Lawson completed the bench's top-to-bottom struggles by scoring just 3 points and nabbing 2 assists in 16 minutes, while also racking up a shocking plus-minus of minus-27.
It was too close a victory against what should have been an overmatched opponent missing it's primary weapon, but as they often have a habit of, the Rockets made it too close for comfort, but still managed to sneak out of New Orleans with their third straight win.
The Rockets move to 25-22 on the year and are just a half game back of the Dallas Mavericks for the 6th spot in the West. They travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs on Wednesday, then follow that up with a trip to Oklahoma City on Friday for as good a gauge as any of where they stand against the top teams in the West.
Houston hopes to have Howard back for both of those match ups, though nothing is certainly official at this point.