NBA: Rockets win fifth straight, beat Pelicans in NBA tournament | Inquirer Sports

NBA: Rockets win fifth straight, beat Pelicans in NBA tournament

/ 03:29 PM November 11, 2023

Fred VanVleet Rockets NBA

Houston Rockets guard Fred VanVleet (5) watches his 3-point basket against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of an NBA basketball in-season tournament game Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON — Jalen Green scored 25 points, Alperen Sengun added 24 and the Houston Rockets stretched their winning streak to five with a 104-101 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Fred VanVleet hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the game and scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets, on their longest winning streak since January 2021.

The Rockets and Pelicans were both playing their first games in the NBA In-Season Tournament, and an eventful fourth quarter turned Toyota Center into a playoff atmosphere.

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New Orleans entered the fourth with a 79-70 lead, but Houston clawed back and took a 101-100 lead following back-to-back 3s from VanVleet with a minute left. VanVleet hit two free throws to put Houston up 103-100.

“Being up and down, having ejections, technical fouls, foul trouble, bad shooting, turnovers — this game had it all tonight,” VanVleet said. “We were able to stay resilient and come out with a win.”

Earlier in the quarter, Jonas Valanciunas and Dillon Brooks tangled for a few seconds after a whistle was blown, riling up the crowd. A few plays later, Valanciunas powered through Sengun’s foul to make a driving layup that put New Orleans up 95-88. Valanciunas appeared to shoot finger guns and shout, “Boom!”

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About a minute later, Valanciunas fouled out of the game.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 31 points. Zion Williamson had 24 points and eight rebounds, and Valanciunas added 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

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The Rockets led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but the Pelicans closed the gap some late in the second quarter. Houston led 54-48 at halftime before New Orleans took over in the third.

“They made plays down the stretch of the game in the last couple of minutes,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “The guys battled their tails off against a team that’s been going lately. Across the board, we couldn’t ask for anything better, we just came up a little short.”

There were 14 lead changes in the game.

“We weren’t our best offensively or defensively, but it’s good to grind it out,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “It’s a little more gratifying to win that way than a blowout. The guys made some big plays in the fourth quarter.”

New Orleans committed 18 turnovers to Houston’s nine.

“The physicality picked up a little bit, that’s what it was,” Ingram said. “Our execution has to be better in the fourth quarter.”

Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate was ejected late in the second quarter after receiving his second technical for reacting to the officiating.

The Pelicans were without CJ McCollum (right lung small pneumothorax), Jose Alvarado (right ankle sprain) and Herb Jones (right fibula contusion).

The Rockets debuted their specially painted court for the tournament, which featured red stripes across the top and bottom of the court, with a blue stripe and red “H-Town” lettering across the center.

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