It ends at 3: Three takeaways from Sunday’s 117-107 loss to the Pelicans

Mar 19, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) smiles after scoring a basket during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It ends at 3: Three takeaways from Sunday’s 117-107 loss to the Pelicans

The Rockets’ season-long winning streak is over at three after Sunday’s 117-107 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. The Pelicans led by 10 after a 38-point first quarter and never looked back as they exacted a little revenge for Friday’s heartbreaking loss. All five Pelicans starters scored in double-figures, led by 26 points from Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, while the Rockets were led by Jalen Green’s 40-point night.

Defense doesn’t show up

The Pelicans entered the game with the NBA’s fifth-worst offense since Zion Williamson strained his hamstring on Jan. 2, but you wouldn’t know it by watching this game, especially the first half. New Orleans scored 64 points on 51% shooting in the game’s first 24 minutes, and they knocked down 10 3-pointers, with the Rockets forcing just four turnovers. All five Pelicans starters scored at least nine points, led by C.J. McCollum’s 16.

Things got better after halftime as the Pelicans stopped making 3s, converting on just 3-of-11 in the second half, but they still scored 53 points in the half on 47% shooting with only five turnovers.

Stagnant offense

The Rockets are a low-assist team, averaging 22.3 per game, which is second-fewest in the NBA, but they were especially lousy in that department against the Pelicans. They finished the game with only 15, including five in the first half and one in the second quarter. One reason for the low assist total was that the Rockets shot just 27% from behind the 3-point line, but they were also isolation heavy, which is not how you want to play against a team with a top-10 defense.

Fourteen of the Rockets’ 15 assists came from three players, Alperen Sengun (6), Kevin Porter Jr (4), and Jae’Sean Tate (4). Jalen Green added one, but the other five Rockets who saw action combined for zero.

Jalen Green has a night

Green led all scorers with 40 points, but what was more impressive than the top-line number was that he needed only 21 shots to get it. The Rockets guard shot 11-of-21 from the field, 4-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, and 14-of-14 from the free throw line, one off his career-high for makes and three off his career-high for attempts.

It’s Green’s fourth 40-point game of the season and the fifth of his career. He added four rebounds and an assist while committing just one turnover in 39 minutes.

Next up

The Rockets will conclude their six-game homestand when the Golden State Warriors visit Toyota Center on Monday night.

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