Rockets beat Pelicans for 10th straight win
HOUSTON — In a season where the Houston Rockets have become one of the league’s best teams, scoring a career-high in points like Clint Capela did on Monday night doesn’t get congratulations. It draws comments on how he needs to play like he did over the New Orleans Pelicans more often.
Capela scored 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for the 130-123 victory over the Pelicans to extend their winning streak to 10 games.
“We’re going to need nights like that from Clint to be consistent and be a beast like he did, blocking shots, dunking the basketball,” Harden said. “And to close the game out he did a really, really good job. So progress, he’s got to get better, but tonight was a good step for him.”
Capela agreed with Harden’s assessment.
“Of course it feels good and I’m happy tonight but I’m really trying to be consistent in what I’m doing,” he said. “So I’m going to keep working and try to get better simply. It’s just one game and there’s going
to be a lot of other ones, so just got to be ready for the other ones now.”
The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston’s up 124-119 with 1:30 left.
Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E’Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.
“James running out of gas in the first half, and then his leg was hurting him and all that,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But then at the end he just puts daggers in people.”
After scoring 48 points in Houston’s last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.
“Harden and CP3 closed out the game, they are both great players,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We had our opportunity, but couldn’t quite get it done.”
Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans and Rajon Rondo had a triple-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers.
The Pelicans led by seven entering the fourth and were up by eight with about 10 minutes left when Moore scored all their points in a 6-2 run. Houston used an 11-3 spurt after that to tie it at 112-112 with about six minutes remaining. Paul made five points in that span and Capela capped it with two dunks.
New Orleans was without Anthony Davis, who sat out with a groin injury. He missed three games after sustaining the injury on Dec. 1 but played in the last two games before the problem began to bother him again.
The Pelicans were up by 2 early in the third quarter when Holiday scored five quick points to push the lead to 89-82. They led by seven later in the quarter when Holiday got going again, scoring all of their points in a 5-2 run that made it 96-86.
Another basket by Holiday extended the lead to 13 points with about two minutes left in the quarter. But Paul outscored the Pelicans 8-2 the rest of the quarter to allow the Rockets to get within 103-96 entering the fourth. He made two 3-pointers in that stretch, with the second one coming just before the buzzer.
DeMarcus Cousins received a technical foul in the second quarter when he shoved Trevor Ariza away from him with two hands after Ariza fouled him. Ariza yelled at Cousins after the push and Chris Paul and Harden
pulled him away as he walked toward him before order was restored.
Pelicans: New Orleans set a season-high with 74 first-half points. … Holiday has scored 30 or more points in two straight games. … Cousins had 24 points and 14 rebounds.
Rockets: Harden’s 14 assists in the first half tied a franchise record for assists in a half. Harden also did it last year and John Lucas did it on Oct. 27, 1977. … Paul finished with 20 points.
Houston’s 10-game winning streak is tied for its longest since the Rockets won a franchise-record 22 straight games in 2008. They have lost just once in the last 17 games.
Pelicans: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Rockets: Host Charlotte on Wednesday.