Jan 4, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas argues with a referee and is ejected from the game during the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Rock bottom: Three takeaways from Wednesday’s 119-108 loss to the Pelicans

The Rockets have lost five in a row and 9-of-10 with an uncompetitive 119-108 loss to the short-handed Pelicans. Head coach Stephen Silas was ejected in the first quarter, and the Rockets trailed by as many as 31 in the second quarter. K.J. Martin and Jalen Green led the Rockets with 16 points, but Green shot just 5-of-15 while Martin made all seven of his shots. C.J. McCollum led all scorers with 28 points.

An embarrassing start

The Pelicans scored on the game’s first possession and quickly built a 16-6 lead that was capped off by C.J. McCollum blocking Alperen Sengun’s layup attempt, which led to Trey Murphy beating Jabari Smith Jr. down the floor for a fast break dunk, leading to a timeout. The Rockets managed to pull within six, but the Pelicans finished the first quarter on a 19-2 run to take a 45-22 lead and Rockets head coach Stephen Silas was ejected with six seconds left.

New Orleans shot 64% in the game’s first 12 minutes and outscored the Rockets on the fast break 10-0. The Pelicans pushed their lead to as many as 31 in the second quarter before the Rockets showed a pulse to pull within 20, though a McCollum 3 right before the end of the half pushed the lead back to 23.

Playing without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Larry Nance, the Pelicans were able to completely dominate a healthy Rockets team, minus Jae’Sean Tate, because they simply played harder.

A strong game from K.J. Martin

Martin was one of the few guys wearing a white jersey to put forth the proper effort from start to finish. He made all seven of his shots and finished with 16 points; he even drew an offensive foul on Jonas Valanciunas down 15 with less than four minutes to play. There are very few positives to point to from this game, but with Eric Gordon likely to sit the second game of the back-to-back on Thursday, Martin will slide into the Rockets’ starting lineup, and he deserves the promotion.

What now?

The Rockets have now lost five in a row and 10-of-11. They are 10-28 and sit two games back of San Antonio for the worst record in the West, and are just a pair of losses away from matching Detroit at the bottom of the league’s standings. No one is expecting them to win games, but this is a fourth double-digit loss in five games, and you can’t blame injuries, the schedule, or any other outside force out of their control. They aren’t putting forth a professional effort on a nightly basis. It doesn’t matter that they showed signs of life in the fourth quarter and pulled to within single digits. It’s easy to cut a 30-point deficit in half, but there’s no reason to ever have to do that.

Next up

The Rockets head home to host the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

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