McCollum leads short-handed Pelicans past Rockets, 119-108

Jan 4, 2023, 5:34 AM | Updated: 9:03 pm
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green calls out to his team in the first half of an NBA bask...

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green calls out to his team in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

              New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green calls out to his team in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) shoots against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (17) shoots against Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall celebrates after he was fouled by the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas yells at referee Ray Acosta before he was ejected during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) shoots a 3-pointer against Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
            
              Houston Rockets guard Garrison Mathews (25) goes to the basket to dunk against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 28 points and the short-handed Pelicans opened up a 31-point lead en route to a 119-108 victory over the struggling Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 17 rebounds for New Orleans. The Pelicans snapped a two-game skid in their first game since learning star power forward Zion Williamson would be sidelined about three weeks by a strained right hamstring.

“No one person is going to replace what he does,” McCollum said. “It’s about everybody collectively playing better, playing smarter, executing the game plan and understanding our room for error is smaller.”

McCollum’s ability to set the tone with other top producers out of the lineup is “the reason he’s the leader he is,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He was locked in from the start on both ends of the floor, sharing the basketball, making shots. He understands the situation.”

Jalen Green and Kenyon Martin Jr. each scored 16 points for Houston, with Martin hitting all seven of his shots.

Jabari Smith Jr. had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Eric Gordon and Alperen Sengun each added 13 points for the Rockets. They dropped their fifth straight game and lost for the 10th time in 11 contests.

New Orleans raced to a 45-22 lead in the first quarter, during which Rockets coach Stephen Silas was ejected for arguing and gesticulating angrily toward officials.

“I don’t necessarily think me being off the floor makes us play better, but we needed something,” Silas said. ” I was disappointed with how we started the game.”

Kevin Porter Jr. said he was gratified to see Silas “fighting for his players.”

“The game started off with a bunch of questionable calls and coach’s frustration came out,” Porter said. “We love that he fought for us and he doesn’t want us to be the one to be ejected or getting technicals. So, he took that one for us.”

The Pelicans’ led 63-32 after one of Jose Alvarado’s three 3-pointers. New Orleans led 75-52 at the half and 98-73 after the third quarter before stagnating so much in the final period that Green had to bring McCollum and Valanciunas back into the game with 7:41 to go.

The Rockets continued to close the gap, getting as close as 115-108 on Josh Christopher’s driving scoop with 47 seconds left.

“We have to be better closing out games,” Green said. “We had three quarters where we dominated and we looked like us and we kind of let of the gas in the fourth quarter.”

Naji Marshall scored 16 points, while Trey Murphy III and Willy Hernangomez each added 14 points for New Orleans, which is off to its best start at home in franchise history at 17-4.

Murphy highlighted his performance with a sequence in which he blocked Sengun’s shot from behind, then ran the length of the court to convert a bounce-pass from Marshall into a reverse dunk.

Alvarado finished with 13 points.

“It’s never good when you see somebody go down, but that’s why we have 12 players on the team,” Valanciunas said. “I’m really proud of our group.

“We just enjoy playing, no matter who’s on the court,” Valanciunas continued. “We’re just having fun. That’s the best way to play, I think.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: Porter scored 11 points. … Shot 44.3% (39 of 88) overall and 31.6% (12 of 38) from 3-point range. … Finished with 41 bench points. … Fell to 4-16 on the road.

Pelicans: F Brandon Ingram missed his 19th straight game because of a left great toe contusion. … F Larry Nance Jr. missed his fourth straight game with a sore right shoulder. … Converted 13 Rockets turnovers into 25 points. … Shot 36.8% (14 of 38) from deep.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Host Utah on Thursday night.

Pelicans: Host Brooklyn on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak celebrates with teammate Pavel Zacha (18) after scoring a g...
Associated Press

Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season. They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up. “We’re still in a good position […]
1 day ago
FILE - Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt holds the Super Bowl trophy during a rally in Kansas Cit...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Hunt, Eagles’ Lurie behind Super Bowl-winning teams

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Clark Hunt proudly held aloft the AFC championship trophy bearing his father’s name, the one signifying that his Kansas City Chiefs were headed back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, and reflected that not so long ago, success seemed elusive. It had been 50 years […]
1 day ago
Atlantic Division's Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (88) and Aleksander Barkov, of th...
Associated Press

Panthers hope All-Star weekend showcased team’s investment

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk is under contract to the Florida Panthers for much of the next decade. So is fellow All-Star Aleksander Barkov. And right there are two compelling reasons for players to join the Panthers in the coming years. The last few days might have helped the recruiting pitch, too. Many of […]
1 day ago
FILE - North Texas football coach Todd Dodge, left, speaks to the media in Denton, Texas, Tuesday, ...
Associated Press

Mahomes, Hurts latest Texas prep QBs on Super Bowl stage

DALLAS (AP) — Texas high school quarterbacks guru Todd Dodge got what he wanted when Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia won their conference championship games. “I really like Joe Burrow,” Dodge said with a chuckle in reference to Cincinnati’s star quarterback, “but I’m not going to root for Joe Burrow over […]
1 day ago
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, drives to the rim as Atlanta Hawks forward Onyeka Okongw...
Associated Press

Nuggets beat Hawks 128-108, tie Boston for NBA’s best record

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray scored a season-high 41 points, Nikola Jokic had his 18th triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets won their third straight game, beating the Atlanta Hawks 128-108 on Saturday night. Jokic finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists and recorded the 94th regular-season triple-double of his career. […]
1 day ago
Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors gu...
Associated Press

Curry injures left leg leading Warriors over Mavs 119-113

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry went down and the Golden Warriors once again had to fight like crazy to close out a game. Curry had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds before injuring his left leg defending a drive late in the third quarter, and the defending NBA champions defeated Dallas 119-113 on […]
1 day ago
McCollum leads short-handed Pelicans past Rockets, 119-108