Rockets escape Pelicans, 126-123

Three Pointers from Rockets win over New Orleans

The winless Houston Rockets hosted the winless New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night. Poor shooting and continued early season chemistry issues contributed to a closer game than it should have been. Russell Westbrook heroics late in the fourth would ice the Pelicans, however and the Rockets secured their first win of the 2019-2020 season

Slow start from Harden

A winless New Orleans team maintained their reputation as a pesky out against the Rockets once again Saturday night. James Harden did very little to help Houston pull away to start the contest, shooting 1-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. Harden would finish with 29 points, but 2-18 from three on the evening can be looked at as a major reason why the Pelicans were able to remain in the game for so long.

Westbrook makes history

Westbrook unleashed himself upon a hapless Pelicans team to the tune of 28 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. In his second consecutive triple double as a Rocket, Westbrook passed Magic Johnson for the second most triple-doubles in NBA history.

Chemistry still developing

The Rockets on paper are clearly the superior team, but basketball is a finesse sport that is predicated on repetition and timing. Houston's main ball handlers are clearly still developing this with their new teammates as James Harden and Westbrook combined for 12 turnovers tonight.

Rockets Player of the Night

Russell Westbrook: 28 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, 1 steal

Pelicans Player of the Night

Brandon Ingram: 35 points, 5 assists, 15 rebounds

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't ugly either. That just seems par for the course whenever the Rockets play the Pelicans. Regardless of injuries on either side, these two teams just always manage to play each other competitively, whistle to whistle. Houston pulled out ahead tonight, but it wasn't without a fight.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart in particular, did an excellent job defending James Harden tonight, forcing him to shoot 3 for 11 from deep. The Pelicans often swarmed Harden and forced him to give up the basketball. It helps the Eric Gordon is starting to find a rhythm from three-point range (4 of 7 tonight and 3 of 7 Saturday against Chicago). Westbrook was also forceful offensively to help pick up for Harden's early struggles.

Clint Capela has really stepped it up for Houston these past four games (11 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight on 5 of 6 shooting). Capela has managed to grab 13 or more rebounds in Houston's last four outings. Capela had struggled greatly to start the season, forcing head coach Mike D'Antoni to rely on smaller units with P.J. Tucker at center. However, the Rockets aren't going to go as far as they want in the postseason if they aren't getting a strong 30 minutes a game from Clint Capela, so it's encouraging that he's starting to play well.

The Rockets took a 7-point lead after a surge from Westbrook to end the first quarter and for the most part, held that lead for the duration of the game. New Orleans made a strong push in the fourth quarter the battle back, but at that point it was too little too late.

Star of the game: James Harden didn't have a the best three-point shooting game, but still managed to log 39 point, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in the process on 62.6% true shooting. He was effect at driving to the rim, drawing fouls, getting floaters, and finding shooters. Harden scored 19 of his points in the 4th quarter, effectively dragging Houston to victory despite a strong late push by New Orleans that cut the lead from 17 at one point down to as low as 6.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was dialed in from the first quarter, particularly from mid-range where he scored 12 of his points on 6 of 8 shooting. In a night where Harden was really struggling to gain a rhythm, Westbrook really helped pick up the slack for Houston especially in the units without Harden. Westbrook finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on an efficient 57.1% true shooting. It's unlikely Westbrook will shoot that well from mid-range this season, but on nights where he's on like this, the Rockets will gladly take it.

Key moment: Russell Westbrook's stretch to end the first quarter gave the Rockets a 7-point lead and the Pelicans were never able to capture the lead from that point forward. Westbrook scored or assisted on the final 6 points of the quarter (within 56.8 seconds) and was forceful defensively.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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