Happy Holiday as Pelicans win thriller

Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans shooting during a game against the Miami Heat on Dec 25, 2015, in Miami, Florida.
Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans shooting during a game against the Miami Heat on Dec 25, 2015, in Miami, Florida.PHOTO: AFP

NEW ORLEANS • The New Orleans Pelicans entered Saturday's game against the Houston Rockets as the National Basketball Association's second-worst defensive team, and they have had plenty to be defensive about in giving up video-game scoring numbers to their opponents in the first two months of the season.

But when it mattered most in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday clamped down on Houston All-Star James Harden to carry New Orleans to a 110-108 comeback victory over the Rockets at the Smoothie King Center.

The Pelicans (10-20) held the Rockets (16-16) to 17 fourth-quarter points - on 5-of-21 shooting - and allowed Houston only one field goal in the final 7min 55sec.

That defensive surge keyed a 14-2 New Orleans run that erased a 103-94 deficit.

Anthony Davis had 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Tyreke Evans capped an 11-point, 13-assist performance by assisting on the game's final basket - Davis' alley-oop dunk - blocking Harden's driving shot with 31 seconds left and stealing Trevor Ariza's inbound pass with just 1.7sec remaining to seal the win.

Said Davis after his team's third win in four games: "We're starting to have a better understanding of our defence, our assignments, our schemes and what we need to run against certain teams."

The Pelicans won for only the second time this season while trailing in the fourth quarter.

Harden scored 10 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, but his three-pointer that tied the game at 108-108 with 2min 28sec left was his only scoring shot in the final 7:55.

"We know James is a great 'iso' player, and I guess the worst thing for a defender is to feel like you're on an island by yourself," Holiday said. "My team-mates made it really easy for me. (Guard) Tyreke (Evans) was yelling in my ear where to send him if I was going to shade him one way. They just made it easy on me."

The defeat spoilt a milestone night for Rockets big man Dwight Howard. With seven points, all in the first half, he moved to 15,001 for his career. The 30-year-old is the fourth-youngest NBA player to reach 15,000 points and 10,000 rebounds.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2015, with the headline 'Happy Holiday as Pelicans win thriller'. Print Edition | Subscribe