SuperTalk Mississippi

Pelicans split pair with Rockets as playoff hopes remain alive

New Orleans head coach Willie Green, center, during a game on Jan. 3 (Hunter Dawkins/Gazebo Gazette)

The New Orleans Pelicans split two games against the Houston Rockets over the weekend, losing in a 114-112 nailbiter Friday night before turning around and winning in dominating fashion 117-107 Sunday night.

On Friday, it was a back-and-forth affair between New Orleans and Houston with the Pelicans leading 54-49 at halftime. However, the Rocket’s second-half comeback was capped off by a 29-foot game-winner from Jabari Smith, Jr. with .1 seconds left.

“I thought we started the game with a great sense of urgency, and I thought defensively, we were flying around,” New Orleans head coach Willie Green said afterward. “However, we didn’t sustain that intensity and had some turnovers. One thing we have to get better at is in the paint.”

On Sunday, the Pelicans showed up with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum leading the way with 26 points each. Jonas Valanciunas added his 36th double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds while the team shot nearly 50% from the floor and over 40% from beyond the arc.

New Orleans outrebounded the Rockets 39-36, outscored them in the paint 52-34, and finished with 28 assists to Houston’s 15 to ensure the victory.

With the Los Angeles Lakers (35-37) losing two of their last three and the Utah Jazz (34-36) splitting weekend contests, the Pelicans (34-37) are now just a half-game out from the last spot in the conference play-in game.

At this point, it is unknown if stars Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado will return for any of the 11 remaining regular season games. Next up for New Orleans will be San Antonio on Monday at 7 p.m. CT.

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