Fred VanVleet drilled two late 3-pointers as the Houston Rockets rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 104-101 on Friday in an NBA in-season tournament game.
VanVleet followed a corner 3-pointer with another above the break with 47.1 seconds left that gave the Rockets a 101-100 lead. After the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, VanVleet added a pair of free throws with 15.4 seconds left to lift the Rockets to their fifth consecutive victory.
VanVleet had 20 points and eight assists and, alongside Alperen Sengun (24 points, eight rebounds), carried the Rockets back from their deficit. Jalen Green added 25 points for Houston.
Ingram was exceptional throughout, tallying a game-high 31 points plus six rebounds and five assists. Zion Williamson chipped in 24 points and eight boards, but the Pelicans dropped their fourth consecutive game with starters CJ McCollum (lung) and Herb Jones (leg) sidelined.
After Ingram got the Pelicans to within striking distance with his push late in the first half, rookie Jordan Hawkins carried the momentum with 14 points in the third quarter.
Hawkins hit a pair of early 3s in the third as part of a 16-4 run that bridged the middle periods, and the Pelicans extended that surge into a 68-60 lead when Williamson followed a technical free throw from Hawkins with a pair at the stripe.
Houston pulled even on a Jae’Sean Tate corner 3, but the Pelicans pushed their lead back to 79-70 entering the fourth when Williamson converted a baseline jumper.
Williamson bludgeoned the Rockets in the first quarter, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting while barreling through a rotation of defenders and attacking the rim with impunity. His efficiency set the offensive foundation for the Pelicans, who built an eight-point advantage that Houston whittled to 31-26 by the close of the frame.
The second period was altogether different. The Rockets more effectively sent a second defender to disrupt Williamson on his forays to the basket, a strategy that led to the Pelicans recording almost as many turnovers (five) as field goals (six) in the frame. New Orleans went 0 for 3 with four turnovers while the Rockets reeled off a 15-0 run that resulted in a 54-40 lead.
Ingram stemmed the tide and prevented Houston from running away, tallying five points down the stretch of the first half that enabled the Pelicans to shave the deficit to 54-48 at the break.
–Field Level Media
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