Harden scores 39, Rockets top Pelicans despite poor shooting
HOUSTON (AP) Nearing the end of one of the worst 3-point shooting performances in NBA history, the Houston Rockets tried again.
On the team's 34th attempt of the night, Patrick Beverley made Houston's third 3 of the game to help the Rockets defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 100-95 on Wednesday.
James Harden led Houston with 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, including the pass to Beverley in the corner to give the Rockets a lead with less than a minute remaining.
''No matter how poorly we were shooting, we work on that every single day,'' Harden said. ''Having confidence in my teammates to knock down shots is important.''
The Rockets finished 3 of 34 on 3-pointers and committed 21 turnovers but were able to rally past New Orleans thanks in part to an off night from Pelicans star Anthony Davis.
With their horrendous shooting performance, Houston became the first team in NBA history to make fewer than four 3s on 30 or more attempts.
''3 out of 34, that's rarely going to happen,'' Harden said. ''If we knocked down more of those, it would've been a different ballgame.''
With the Rockets trailing by six with under 5 minutes left, Harden airballed a 3 that bounced out of bounds for a turnover. On the next trip down the court, Trevor Ariza attempted a 3-pointer in transition that barely caught the front of the rim.
After narrowing the gap, Harden helped Houston regain the lead with 1:29 remaining by barreling into the lane for a layup rather than another try from beyond the arc. Harden went 1 for 8 from 3-point range.
Two free throws by Ryan Anderson helped New Orleans regain the lead before Beverley's pivotal shot sent the crowd into a long-awaited frenzy.
Beverley credited Harden for the assist and emphasized the importance of his team's defensive effort. Houston had allowed opponents to score 100 or more points in seven straight games. The Rockets improved to 12-3 when keeping foes under the century mark.
''Even though our shots weren't falling, we still relied on our defense, and that's what got us the win,'' Harden said.
Returning from a one-game absence after a right big toe sprain kept him out of the Pelicans' loss in Minnesota on Saturday, Davis had his own night of frustration. Less than two weeks removed from his 59-point performance in Detroit, Davis was held to 12 on 5-of-13 shooting in 39 minutes.
''My foot felt great,'' he said.
Norris Cole led New Orleans with 21 points and eight assists.
The teams committed a combined 43 turnovers, and the Pelicans had 22.
''We've given ourselves chances to win, but we're just not finishing them out,'' Davis added. ''Especially when they're in a position where we're trying to catch them, this was a big game for us. We didn't come up with the win, so it's even more frustrating.''
The Pelicans entered the night five games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They have lost nine of their last 10 in Houston.
''We come out here after every game, and we talk about, `Well, you know, we're still in the playoff race,''' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. ''No, we're not. We're not, OK? What we are is a team that had an opportunity to do something, and we didn't get it done. That is the bottom line.''
Pelicans: Dante Cunningham had 16 points, while Eric Gordon and Anderson each added 14. Anderson got a technical foul early in the fourth quarter for venting at the officials. ... Alexis Ajinca started at center as Omer Asik missed his fourth straight game with a right ankle sprain.
Rockets: Houston signed shooting guard Andrew Goudelock out of the Chinese Basketball Association.
STEALING THE SHOW
The Rockets had 15 steals and scored 24 points off turnovers. Houston has recorded 15 or more steals nine times this season, the highest total by any team dating back to the 1998-99 season. Houston leads the NBA with 10.1 steals per game.
''The encouraging thing is the activity level, defensively,'' guard Jason Terry said. ''Over 30 deflections, 15 steals, and then we got stops.''
For just the third time in their past 15 games, the Rockets outrebounded their opponent, topping New Orleans 51-43 on the boards. Houston is 12-27 when getting outrebounded by its opponent and 18-4 when earning the edge on the boards.
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Thursday.
Rockets: Visit Chicago on Saturday.
This story has been corrected to show New Orleans had 22 turnovers.