Okafor helps short-handed Pelicans beat Rockets 121-116


HOUSTON (AP) — If the drama between Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans is frustrating his teammates, it didn’t show in their return to the court Tuesday night.

Jahlil Okafor scored 27 points and the short-handed Pelicans overcame a big early deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 121-116 in their first game since Davis’ agent said the five-time All-Star wants to be traded. Davis sat out his fifth straight game with a sprained left index finger, but Okafor and Jrue Holiday rallied New Orleans despite 37 points from Houston’s James Harden.

“It wasn’t no drama to us,” Okafor said. “A.D.’s here. He took us all to dinner last night. There’s not really any drama for us. I know there’s a lot of noise on the outside, but in the locker room we’re still all together. We still love A.D. He still loves us. … So we’re all great.”

Harden extended his streak of 30-point games to 24, but he had a tough shooting night, making 11 of 32 overall and going 6 for 18 from 3-point range. He had 11 rebounds, six assists and four steals.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni credited Holiday for making things tough on Harden.

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“Jrue Holiday is probably one of the best defenders in the league, if not the best,” he said. “Obviously he did a heck of a job on him.”

Holiday had 19 points, eight assists, six rebounds and a career-high six blocks for New Orleans.

“Obviously beating a team of this caliber and doing it on their home floor is rewarding,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I just think that the guys that we put out there they play extremely hard.”

New Orleans used an 8-2 run to make it 114-102 with 3 1/2 minutes left. Holiday had six points for the Pelicans in that span, and Houston missed seven straight shots.

The Rockets got going after that, using a 12-4 spurt — with 10 points from Harden — to get within 118-114 with 22.4 seconds left. Kenrich Williams missed two free throws after that, but Harden turned the ball over, and Houston opted to foul Tim Frazier.

He made one of two free throws to extend the lead to five with 12.1 seconds remaining. Harden was fouled on a 3-pointer and made two of three to cut the lead to three with 6.3 seconds left, but Holiday made two free throws to secure the victory.

“Everything was hard tonight because we weren’t stopping them, and when that happens obviously we paid the price,” D’Antoni said.

The Pelicans snapped a three-game skid amid the Davis drama. Davis’ agent also said the star big man won’t sign an extension with the team, a move that earned Davis a $50,000 fine because the league office said he violated a collectively bargained rule prohibiting players or their representatives from making public trade demands. Davis chatted with teammates while watching the game from the end of the bench.

“That’s going to play out the way it plays out,” Gentry said. “I don’t talk about it very much. I think it’s out in the public now, and I think everything that needed to be said has been said.”

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The Rockets led by as many as 15 early, but the Pelicans used a 13-5 run in the third quarter to get within 83-81 with about four minutes left in the quarter. Okafor had four points in that stretch and Holiday added a 3-pointer.


Pelicans: Julius Randle missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. … Darius Miller had 14 points. … Frazier added 15 points off the bench.

Rockets: Holiday is the first guard in NBA history with at least 17 points, six rebounds, seven assists and six blocks in a game. … Chris Paul had 10 points and nine assists in his second game back after missing 17 with a hamstring injury. … Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 11 rebounds. … Eric Gordon scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers.


Holiday on his career-high six blocks: “It’s my inner Anthony (Davis), man.”


Tuesday was Harden’s 11th straight game with at least 35 points, which is the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. He averaged 43.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists this month. In 14 games in January he scored 610 points, to become the first player to have 600 or more points in a month since Michael Jordan did it in March of 1987.


Pelicans: Host Denver on Wednesday night.

Rockets: Start a four-game road trip at Denver on Friday night.


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