NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had his eyes locked on James Harden and found a way to hear — through the din of an exuberant crowd — the defensive instructions Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis shouted to him.
"We know James is a great (one-on-one) player and the worst thing for a defender is to feel like you're on an island by yourself," Holiday said. "My teammates made it really easy for me."
Holiday helped hold Harden to 1-of-5 shooting and a turnover during the final 7:58, and the New Orleans Pelicans held off the Houston Rockets 110-108 on Saturday night.
Anthony Davis had 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Tyreke Evans capped an 11-point, 13-assist performance by assisting on the game's final basket — Davis' alley-oop dunk — blocking Harden's driving shot with 31 seconds left and stealing Trevor Ariza's inbound pass with 1.7 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"We're just trusting each other, helping each other, talking to each other," Davis said after his team's third victory in four games. "We're starting to have a better understanding of our defense, our assignments our schemes and what we need to run against certain teams."
Eric Gordon scored 26 for the Pelicans, hitting six 3-pointers as New Orleans shot 13 of 24 from long range. Ryan Anderson added 16 points.
James Harden scored 25 points for Houston. His final basket was a 3 that tied it at 108 with 2:27 left.
Ariza and Patrick Beverley each had 16 points for the Rockets, who beat San Antonio a night earlier but wilted down the stretch against New Orleans, which closed the game on a 16-5 run.
"We have to solve our core issues. There's a reason why this team is so up and down," Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We come out here tonight, things aren't easy, things don't go our way and we turn into the ugly Rockets. It's frustrating for me. It's frustrating for all of us."
"Over and over again, we've disrespected the game," Bickerstaff continued. "Our priorities need to be clear and I need to do a better job playing people whose priorities are clear. Winning is the only priority."
Still, the Rockets were close until the end.
Harden was charging down the court on the dribble in the final seconds, but Holiday committed a heads-up blocking foul, forcing an inbound play with 1.7 seconds left. Davis played tight to Ariza to try to deny the inbounds pass, and Ariza struggled for several seconds to find an open player before attempting a bounce pass toward Dwight Howard that Evans easily swiped.
The Rockets made 15 of 33 3-point attempts, but made only four of their last 18 attempts from deep.
"Shot selection wasn't the problem," Bickerstaff asserted.
Davis, meanwhile, said the Pelicans figured the Rockets, who hit 11 of their first 15, couldn't sustain that kind of long-distance accuracy throughout their second game in two nights.
"We knew that back-to-back was going to kick in sooner or later and it did," Davis said. "Those were fourth-quarter legs right there."
BACK AND FORTH
Houston opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run comprised of three 3s by Beverley and one by Ariza.
New Orleans responded with a 15-2 run that included 3s by Holiday and Davis, putting the Pelicans up 80-76.
Houston controlled most of the first half and led by 11 when Terrence Jones' free throw made it 62-51 with 2:30 left in the period.
The Pelicans closed the quarter on a 12-0 spurt to take a 63-62 lead into halftime. The surge included a dunk and 3-pointer each by Davis and Anderson, and Gordon capped it with his fifth 3 on as many attempts in the first half, when he had 19 of his points.
Rockets: Jones had 13 points for Houston. ...The previous three games in the series had been won by the Rockets. ... The Rockets are 12-9 under Bickerstaff, who took over when Kevin McHale was fired in mid-November. ... Houston fell to 6-9 on the road. ... With his tip-in as he was fouled in the second quarter, Howard eclipsed 15,000 points for his career. Howard, who turned 30 last month, is in his 12th season and now has 15,002 points.
Pelicans: Kendrick Perkins checked in the first quarter for his first playing time in three games. He spelled Omer Asik after New Orleans' starting center gave up a dunk to Howard and moments later turned the ball over on the offensive end. ... Asik finished with 10 points, his first time reaching that mark this season. ... New Orleans improved to 7-6 at home, above .500 at home for the first time this season.
Rockets: Host Atlanta on Tuesday.
Pelicans: Visit Orlando on Monday.
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Posted on Sun, December 27, 2015
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer