The Houston Rockets lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 110-99 tonight after coming out flat to start the fourth quarter. This one appeared headed towards an exciting conclusion, but the exhilaration was swiftly sucked out of the building once the Pelicans went on a 15-0 run to start the fourth.
This turned out to be a humbling occasion, especially as the Pelicans destroyed the Rockets on the boards, outrebounding the home team by 27. It became a long night for the Rockets in particular, as Jonas Valanciunas imposed his will and strength against Houston’s forces.
There just happened to be no answers for the big man as Ime Udoka shuffled between Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr., Jeff Green, and double-teams, desperately searching for any way to slow down the Pelicans’ center.
Even though he managed to compile a 10 and 10 double-double, it was especially tough for Sengun to find a rhythm tonight as Valanciunas’ size didn’t give him much wiggle room to maneuver around the basket.
Houston didn’t have many counterpunches either because the sad reality is that there weren’t a lot of shots falling to begin with. The Rockets kept firing away from behind the line, but failed to even hit the 30 percent mark.
This game would have likely been over after the end of one had it not been for Jalen Green having another revitalized performance (31 points on 11-20FG). However, even his efforts couldn't save the Rockets tonight. It’s a shame because he was everywhere on the court. He was forcing turnovers, making shots, creating for others off the dribble, but help from his fellow starters was few and far between.
For instance, Bari accomplished a whole lot of nothing out there (ZERO points and ONE rebound.) Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet didn’t really get going until a last ditch effort in the fourth either. Hell, if it weren’t for the rookies, the bench would have been close to getting shut out too.
If there was something bright to take away from this game, other than Jalen, it was the contributions from Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. Cam was the only one who could make a three early in the game, and he continued to keep his foot on the gas pedal with a 17 point outing.
Amen also reached double figures (10 points and 6 rebounds) and is making a case for more playing time. Amen’s jump shot definitely still needs some work, but if these past few Jalen Green games have taught us anything, it’s to remain patient with development.
Coming out flat and not winning this game, a game in which the Pelicans were missing two starters (Zion Williamson and Herb Jones), is certainly annoying, but I think I saw enough encouraging things that will erase the final outcome of this game from my memory.
Watching the Jalen x Amen x Cam trio in action tonight reminded me that this process is far from complete, but also that the ceiling with these guys is why we invested in them in the first place.