Christian Wood scored 27 points, and with a 126-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night, the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to five matches.
For Houston, which shot 48.9 percent, led by 18 at halftime and did not allow the Pelicans to get within eight after that, Victor Oladipo scored 20 points and John Wall added 15.
“We’re moving in the right direction, for sure,” said Rockets coach Stephen Silas, whose team has clawed back to .500 after a 4-9 start. “Now it seems like we’re pulling together on the defensive end especially, creating good offensive off defense, moving the ball and kind of doing the things that I envisioned us doing as a group.”
Wood, who played during part of the 2018-19 season for New Orleans, shot 11 of 13, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. For Houston, Oladipo and Wall each hit four 3s, which went 20 of 46 from deep. “It starts with us defensively,” Wood said. “Once our defense started rolling, I felt like our offense started rolling. Guys started hitting shots, now we’re making extra passes. It’s great for us when we play like that.”
For the Pelicans, who looked slow at times after scoring 131 points in a win over Milwaukee a night earlier, Zion Williamson had 26 points.
“It’s one thing if a team’s hitting shots,” Williamson began. “But when they’re playing harder than us and hitting shots, we’re not even giving ourselves a chance.”
For New Orleans, which came in having won two straight, Brandon Ingram and Eric Bledsoe each scored 15.
During a 14-1 Pelicans run in the third quarter, Williamson hit three baskets that briefly reduced Houston’s lead to 86-78. But soon after, an odd play helped Houston take charge for good.
For stepping into Cousins’ landing space as the Rockets’ power forward came down from a missed 3, Jaxson Hayes was called for a flagrant-1 foul. Before dropping to the floor, Cousins fell on Hayes’ foot. He got up and made two of three free throws, and on Jae’Sean Tate’s 3, the Rockets made it a 5-point possession, which put Houston up 94-80. Eventually, Houston’s lead ballooned to 24.
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said, “To me, defend, rebound, take care of the ball, and 90% of the time you’ll at least have a chance coming down at the end, we’re not defending and we’re sporadic when taking care of the ball. Well, it’s going to be hard to get any kind of consistency. It just is.”