Pelicans hammer Rockets for 4th straight win

CJ McCollum scored 28 points, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas had double-doubles, and the host New Orleans Pelicans routed the Houston Rockets 127-105 on Thursday night.

Williamson had 27 points and 10 assists, Valanciunas had 20 points and 14 rebounds, Herbert Jones scored 17 points, Trey Murphy III had 13 and Jose Alvarado 11 off the bench as the Pelicans won for their fourth straight game and for the eighth time in nine games despite the absence of second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram (non-COVID illness).

Amen Thompson scored 22 points in a reserve role, Alperen Sengun had 20 points, Cam Whitmore added 13 and Jalen Green had 10 for the Rockets, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.

The Rockets trailed by 13 points at halftime and the closest they could get in the second half was 12 on two occasions early in the third quarter.

Williamson converted a three-point play and Valanciunas made a 3-pointer during a 9-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 74-53 lead. The lead reached as much as 28 points before New Orleans held a 101-79 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Houston got within 15 with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter but got no closer as the Pelicans earned a 2-2 split of the season series.

The first quarter featured 10 lead changes and two ties, the last of which came at 20. McCollum scored four points as New Orleans took its biggest lead of the period, 26-22. The Pelicans matched that margin when Naji Marshall’s 3-pointer beat the buzzer and gave New Orleans a 31-27 edge at the end of the period.

Alvarado started the second-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer before the Rockets took a pair of one-point leads. Alvarado’s layup put New Orleans back on top and the Pelicans opened a five-point lead before Houston got within one point.

Valanciunas made four field goals to help New Orleans open a 55-45 lead. The Rockets trimmed the lead to five before Murphy and McCollum each made a 3-pointer during a closing 8-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 63-50 halftime lead.