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Three things that stood out from Rockets loss to Pelicans

Here are three areas that caught my eye in the Rockets 117-107 loss to the Pelicans.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets headed into Sunday's game vs. New Orleans Pelicans looking to extend their season-long winning streak to four games.

The Rockets came into the game with their third-longest winning streak in the last three seasons and the longest since December 8, 2021. Unfortunately, bad shooting and a bad defensive first half were too much to overcome, as the Rockets fell 117-107 ending their three-game winning streak.

Here are three things that stood out about the Rockets’ 10-point loss to the Pelicans.

Three-point shooting, or lack thereof, puts a lot of pressure on the Rockets to score in the paint

The Rockets’ lack of shooting is no secret to anyone 70 games into the season. They managed to shoot a respectable percentage from the three-point line in their win Friday over the Pelicans, but on Sunday, they struggled from the start.

The Rockets finished the half only shooting 3-for-19 from three-point range, which is a less-than-optimal 15.8 percent. But, of course, it didn't help that the Pelicans were 10-for-20 from beyond the arc, which was the biggest reason for their 20-point lead at the half.

The Rockets’ shooting did improve slightly in the third quarter, as they shot 3-for-8 in the third quarter and were able to cut the lead from 20 down to 14 at the end of the third. Houston managed to cut the lead down to nine a couple of times in the fourth, which would mean they only needed three three-pointers in a row to tie the game, but that never happened, as the Rockets ended the game shooting 9-for-33 from deep and never got any closer.

The Pelicans came out more aggressive on defense and offense

Most people saw it coming a mile away. The Pelicans, who are fighting to make the playoffs, were coming off a last-second loss to the Rockets and came out from the start more aggressive on both sides of the ball. They went to Jonas Valucinas early and often as the Rocket didn't have an answer for the big center throughout the night.

That aggressive play was part of why the Rockets could never get comfortable on the offensive end. As discussed earlier, the Rockets struggled from the three-point line and overall in the first half, only shooting 40 percent from the field.

Coach Silas told us in the media room he was not happy with their play in the first half, but it was an improvement in the second half.

"They had 16 transition points in the first half and one transition point in the second half."

The Rockets did a better job in the second half containing the Pelicans fast break, but the Pelicans were able to continue to make enough three-pointers to keep the Rockets at arm's length.

The Pelicans did a much better job this game running the Rockets off their first shot and forcing them into tough shots at the end of the shot clock. They also punished the Rockets inside with Jonas Valanciunas, as he was able to foul out Alperen Sengun early in the fourth quarter. The Rockets did get to the line 38 times, but a lot of that was due to the aggressive play of the Pelicans, who practically bumped, held or grabbed on every play.

This ultimately proved too much for Houston, as they could not mount a comeback as they did in Friday night's win.

Jalen Green continues to be aggressive and get to the free-throw line

Jalen Green's shot has been up and down most of the season. The big difference between last season and this season is that Green consistently gets to the free throw line and can score 20-plus points regardless if his shot is falling from deep. Green’s shot was falling tonight, which makes his ability to get to the line even more of an asset, as he finished with a game-high 40 points despite the loss.

What makes Green's 40-point efficient game even more impressive is that he did it against the Pelicans wing defenders. New Orleans has multiple good defenders on the wing as they start Trey Murphy, Herb Jones and even Brandon Ingram, who isn't a top defender but has over a seven-foot wingspan.

Green was able to do this on only 22 shots as he got to the line 14 times and made all 14. A Houston Rockets shooting guard needing only 22 shots to get to 40 points sounds familiar. Green has already taken 147 more free throws than he did last season and in two fewer games, as Green played 67 last season and Sunday's game was his 65th.

I asked Coach Silas about Green's ability to get to the line compared to his rookie season.

"He was so diligent this summer in the weight room."

The work Green put in this summer in the weight room has shown as his ability to absorb contact and still get a shot off is a huge reason for his uptick in free throw attempts. As many Rockets fans know, this is the key for any player to take their game from 20 points a game to 30 or even one day lead the NBA in scoring. Jalen Green has unlocked that part of his game, and as he gets stronger, double-digit free-throw attempts will be a regular occurrence.

The Rockets are back in action Monday night as they welcome the defending champs to Toyota Center.

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