Basketball

Rockets rocked by patched-up Pelicans

Harden keeps up hot scoring streak with 37 points, but it's not enough

It was his 24th straight game with at least 30 points, but James Harden's 37-point haul was still not enough as the Houston Rockets succumbed to a 121-116 defeat by the New Orleans Pelicans yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Pelicans' Jahlil Okafor produced a season-high points total (27) for a second consecutive game while Jrue Holiday undergirded a patchwork rotation with a sensational defensive performance.

Harden led the Rockets with the scoring and added 11 rebounds, but he shot just 11 of 32 from the floor.

"A terrible loss for us," he said. "We had no energy and it was from the beginning of game too.

"They were getting too many easy looks, easy lay-ups. We didn't put no defensive pressure on them at all. And they carried on the entire game.

"We are just not good enough to turn it on. So we have to get off to really good starts, obviously tonight was one of those nights where we didn't play well defensively."

The Rockets' defence allowed Okafor to rack up 27 points with 12 rebounds, while Holiday posted 19 points, six rebounds, eight assists and six blocked shots for the Pelicans.

They were missing five of their top six rotation players and reeling from the trade request of All-NBA centre Anthony Davis, who is also sidelined with a finger injury.

The Pelicans trailed by as many as 15 points and took the lead for the first time only with 2min 6sec remaining in the third quarter, when Kenrich Williams (eight points, 16 rebounds) scored on a backdoor lay-up for a 90-88 edge.

Emboldened, the Pelicans stretched their lead to as many as 12 points in the fourth.

A collective effort uplifted New Orleans, who had dropped five of six games.

Harden's streak actually appeared to be in jeopardy, but a late spurt kept it going. He did not hit 30 points until he sank a three-pointer with less than two minutes left, and then he scored seven more points in the final minute, but it was not enough for a victory.

Meanwhile,the visiting Philadelphia 76ers welcomed Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler back into their starting line-up, and the trio helped them run over the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 121-105 to get back on track after a rough start to a five-game road trip.

Embiid finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Butler scored 20 points, and Chandler finished with nine.

Brandon Ingram scored a career-high 36 points for the Lakers.

LeBron James, who sat out his 17th straight game with a groin injury, is close to returning for the Lakers, who fell to a 6-11 win-loss record in his absence.

He could be back tomorrow morning when they face the Los Angeles Clippers. - REUTERS

SELECTED RESULTS: Cleveland Cavaliers 116 Washington Wizards 113, Orlando Magic 117 Oklahoma City Thunder 126, San Antonio Spurs 126 Phoenix Suns 124

Basketball