NBA: James Harden extends streak, but New Orleans Pelicans stun Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets'James Harden (centre) splits the defense of New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor (left) and forward Darius Miller (right) at Toyota Center on Jan 29, 2019.
Houston Rockets'James Harden (centre) splits the defense of New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor (left) and forward Darius Miller (right) at Toyota Center on Jan 29, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Jahlil Okafor produced a season-high point total for a second consecutive game while Jrue Holiday undergirded a patchwork rotation with a sensational defensive performance as the depleted New Orleans Pelicans stunned the host Houston Rockets 121-116 on Tuesday (Jan 29).

James Harden led the Rockets with 37 points - his 24th straight game with at least 30 - and added 11 rebounds, but he shot just 11 of 32 from the floor.

Okafor paired 27 points with 12 rebounds while Holiday posted 19 points, six rebounds, eight assists and six blocked shots for the Pelicans, who were missing five of their top six rotation players and reeling from the trade request of All-NBA centre Anthony Davis (who is also sidelined with a finger injury).

The Pelicans trailed by as many as 15 points and did not take their first lead until 2min 6sec remained in the third quarter when Kenrich Williams (eight points, 16 rebounds) scored on a backdoor layup for a 90-88 edge. Emboldened, the Pelicans stretched their lead to as many as 12 points in the fourth.

A collective effort uplifted New Orleans, who had dropped five of six games. Six Pelicans scored in double figures, with Ian Clark posting 15 off the bench while Tim Frazier added 10 points and 10 assists in 20 minutes. The Pelicans shot 51.1 per cent from the field and produced a plus-10 advantage on the boards.

Following a torrid start from deep, Houston finished 19 of 56 on three-point attempts.

The Rockets twice appeared on the brink of running away from the undermanned Pelicans. Houston claimed their first double-digit lead just past the midpoint of the first quarter, with Harden converting a floater at the 5:22 mark for a 24-14 advantage. James Ennis III's three-pointer with 2:28 left helped Houston stretch their lead to 12 before the Pelicans closed the period on a 7-2 spurt.

Houston appeared undaunted, hitting 10 of 18 three-pointers to open the game before turning a 9-2 burst into a 66-51 lead on a P.J. Tucker free throw with 3:17 remaining in the first half. But the Pelicans scored the final eight points of the second quarter, with Okafor registering a dunk, a 10-foot jumper, and two free throws during that stretch. New Orleans cut the deficit to seven by the break and then held the Rockets to 8-for-26 shooting in the third quarter to seize the lead.

Harden's streak actually appeared to be in jeopardy, but a late spurt kept it going. He did not hit 30 points until he sank a three-pointer with less than two minutes left, and then he scored seven more points in the final minute.