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No Zion Williamson, no problem for Pelicans in win over Rockets

Jan 4, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) during the first quarter at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

CJ McCollum scored 28 points to lead six New Orleans scorers in double figures and the short-handed Pelicans defeated the visiting Houston Rockets 119-108 on Wednesday night.

Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 17 rebounds, Naji Marshall scored 16, Trey Murphy III and Willy Hernangomez scored 14 each and Jose Alvarado came off the bench to add 13 for the Pelicans, who played without leading scorer Zion Williamson. He missed his first game in what is expected to be an absence of a few weeks due to a strained hamstring. Second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram missed his 19th consecutive game because of a bruised toe.

Jalen Green and Kenyon Martin Jr. scored 16 points each, Jabari Smith Jr. had 14 points and 13 rebounds, Alperen Sengun and Eric Gordon scored 13 each and Kevin Porter Jr. had 11 to lead the Rockets, who lost their fifth consecutive game.

New Orleans won for the 15th time in its last 17 home games, a stretch that began with a 119-106 victory against Houston on Nov. 12.

The Pelicans led by as many as 31 points in the first half and held a 25-point lead after three quarters, but the Rockets outscored them 35-21 in the fourth quarter when the closest Houston got was 115-108 with 47.1 seconds left.

McCollum scored the Pelicans’ first five points and his total reached 10 on a 3-pointer that gave them a 26-13 lead.

The Rockets closed within eight points, but New Orleans scored the final 15 points to open a 45-22 lead the end of the first quarter.

Houston coach Stephen Silas was ejected with 6 seconds left in the period after receiving two technical fouls.

Alvarado scored 11 points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second quarter as the Pelicans expanded the lead to 63-32.

Sengun scored seven points as the Rockets crept with 20 before McCollum finished the second quarter with a 3-pointer that gave New Orleans a 75-52 halftime lead. The 75 points were the most the Pelicans have scored in a half this season.

–Field Level Media