Houston Rockets 112, New Orleans Pelicans 111: Chaos Reigns

The Houston Rockets got away with a tight, confusing tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that’s been better than their record indicates. Or maybe the Pelicans fell back to earth after playing incredibly. Or maybe both teams sabotaged themselves. Maybe Houston should have overpowered a team without Anthony Davis for the second half, or maybe the Pelicans should have overpowered a disappointing Rockets team on the second night of a road back to back and missing Dwight Howard and Donatas Motiejunas. There was only one constant in this bizarre game: chaos.

The good for Houston was that James Harden turned into a human flamethrower and the intensity was high. Harden played for a ludicrous 41 minutes on the second night of a back to back, but the Rockets needed every minute they could get. He scored 35 points on 20 shots, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal, a block and only 2 turnovers. This is peak Harden. He even played some solid defense! Harden’s the heart and soul of this Rockets team, and he seems to be coming out of whatever funk he was in for much of the season. The Rockets are going to need a whole lot more of this for the rest of the season.

The Rockets also started the game hot, getting out to a double-digit lead early, then relinquishing it and trailing by two at the half. Matters were complicated by an unlikely collision between Tyreke Evans’ elbow and Anthony Davis’ head which left Davis out for the duration of the game with a concussion. With Davis out for the start of his hopefully brief recovery period, the Rockets capitalized on their advantage by sprinting out to an 18-0 run over the first three and a half minutes of the second half.

Just when the game seemed over, however, James Harden sat and the Pelicans went on a team on both sides of the ball, crawling back to within a single point of the Rockets. Both teams followed up their incredible 35 vs 32 quarter by taking four minutes to score the third and fourth points of the quarter. Toney Douglas and Jrue Holiday turned it on with a vengeance, and the Rockets fought tooth and nail to end the fourth quarter 19-19, winning the game on four seconds of solid defense after an embarrassing shot clock violation on the previous possession.

There was no rhyme nor reason to the game, but sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered for Houston. Josh Smith and Marcus Thornton may have combined for a dismal 6-21 for a mere 17 points, but Trevor Ariza took up the slack by hitting every shot conceivable, ending with 31 points on 11-16 shooting, including a ludicrous 8-11 from three point range. Patrick Beverley went 2-7 from deep until he hit a the most crucial three of the game to put the Rockets ahead late. It was absolutely feast or famine for the Rockets all evening, in a microcosm of their bizarre season.

While this sort of performance will likely not be enough against the top teams in the league, the Rockets also won’t be getting outrun on a back to back in most of those games. The scoring numbers indicate some laughable defense, and indeed that was present at times, but the other story was that the Pelicans simply ran right alongside the Rockets to create piles of possessions. This game was a mess in every possible way, but it was a mess the Rockets stuck with and came out on top of. I don’t think we’ve learned much from this game, but sometimes it’s enough just to get a win.

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