NBA: Jabari Smith Jr.’s last-second shot lifts Rockets over Pelicans
Jabari Smith Jr. drilled a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining and the Houston Rockets rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit to beat the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 114-112 in the NBA on Friday.
With the Rockets trailing by one point following a wild back and forth, Smith walked into a pull-up 3 after Houston secured possession with 4 seconds remaining. The Pelicans (33-37) were unable to get off a shot on their ensuing possession, falling to 3-8 since the All-Star break.
Jalen Green paced Houston with 25 points while Kevin Porter Jr. added 20. Both Green and Porter notched six assists while Alperen Sengun added 17 points and 11 rebounds as Houston (18-52) claimed a third consecutive victory.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 31 points and six assists while Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 17 rebounds.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 18, 2023
Valanciunas rampaged through the third quarter following a brief confrontation with Sengun during a timeout. He paired 10 points with five rebounds and added a blocked shot during the period and was instrumental in the Pelicans’ 36-point period that featured 63.2 percent shooting.
But after trailing by as many as 16 points in the third, the Rockets roared back in the fourth quarter. When Kenyon Martin Jr. followed a Sengun dunk with a pair of free throws, the Rockets trailed 103-102 with 4:07 left.
New Orleans extended back to a six-point lead before Green cut that margin to 112-111 with his jumper on an inbounds play with 35 seconds left.
The Pelicans reversed their slow start from a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday by drilling their first six 3-pointers while surging to a 26-12 lead. But after a Josh Richardson 3 resulted in that 14-point deficit at the 5:10 mark of the first quarter, the Rockets punched back.
Houston closed the opening period with a 19-0 blitz while the Pelicans missed their final six shot attempts of the quarter while also mixing in four turnovers.
The Rockets seized the lead on a Sengun layup with 59 seconds left and carried a 31-26 advantage into the second that swelled to eight points when Josh Christopher converted a pair of free throws with 10:47 left in the half.
Suddenly, the tide turned again. Houston scored just once, a Porter 3-pointer, during a seven-possession stretch that featured five turnovers including three in succession that New Orleans converted into points. Naji Marshall, Herb Jones and Ingram all scored following Rockets turnovers, with Ingram delivering a driving layup that gave the Pelicans a 48-45 lead.
The Pelicans led 54-49 at the break after parlaying eight second-quarter turnovers by Houston into 15 points. Fueled by those miscues, the Pelicans totaled 13 fast-break points in the half.