Early in the second quarter, Brandon Ingram received a pass from Kenrich Williams for an easy two-hand dunk. With the basket, it was clear that the Houston Rockets were in for a long night as Ingram recorded his 11th point of the game.
Despite ending the game shooting 28.9% from behind the arc, the Rockets narrowly escaped a win over the Pelicans with a 126-123 victory Saturday night inside the Toyota Center in Houston.
“Specifically, I mean there was a lot of stuff. We just weren’t into them again; I mean, we have that tendency. But [the Pelicans] were super fast, and they kept coming at us. We have to be a little tougher.” - Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni
Prior to the game, D’Antoni stressed the importance of playing with a lot of energy on the defensive end. With the game tied at 61 apiece heading into the halftime, perhaps the Rockets received the memo late after the Pelicans came out firing on all cylinders.
Led by Ingram, who scored 18 first-half points (7-9 FG), the Rockets allowed the Pelicans to shoot 53.3% from the floor, 46.2% from deep. Along with Ingram, Lonzo Ball made his presence felt, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the first 24 minutes.
“They are a lot younger, and they are good. Alvin (Gentry) does a good job with what they try to do, but the most important thing is that we won. We’ll clean up some stuff and get our guys fired up. We understand that we are not playing great right now, but we’ll get there.” - D’Antoni
Despite 29 points (8-for-29 FG, 2-for-18 3PT), Harden struggled to find his rhythm for the second consecutive night. Even though they started the game shooting 4-for-13 from the floor, 1-for-9 from deep, the Rockets were able to stay competitive thanks to the contribution made by Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela. The duo connected on several plays in the first half for a combined 21 points and eight rebounds.
After they were outscored 39-36 in the third quarter by New Orleans, the Rockets started the fourth quarter trailing 100-97. Led by Westbrook — 10 of his 28 points scored in the fourth — Houston took full control of the game following an 8-0 run that was ignited by an and-1 layup by the eight-time All-Star.
“[Westbrook]’s not fazed by anything. He remains calm and that’s a mark of a winner. The guy is relentless and he is a gamer.” - D’Antoni
Midway through the fourth quarter, Westbrook pulled down his 10th rebound of the night that gave him his first triple-double on the season. It marked the 139th triple-double of his career (28 points, 13 assists and 10 boards), breaking a tie with NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson for second-most all-time.
“It’s a blessing. I give nothing but thanks to the man above for allowing me to be able to go out and play and compete. It’s something I never ever take for granted.” - Westbrook
For New Orleans, the Pelicans remain winless on the young season but gave the Rockets all they could handle throughout the game. Ingram continued his hot start to the season, scoring 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting from the floor, 4-for-7 from behind the arc.
“He (Ingram) improved his 3-point shooting a lot, which makes him a lot more dangerous. Before, you could play off him a little bit, but he is a scorer and does a great job.” - D’Antoni
After a hard-fought victory over, the Houston Rockets will return to the court on Monday for a Western Conference showdown against Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tip-off is slated for 7 P.M. CT.