By JORDAN GODWIN Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added his second straight triple-double with 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to a 126-123 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Westbrook hit two clutch free throws to give Houston the three-point lead with 6.1 seconds remaining. Josh Hart missed a 3 at the buzzer to give Houston the win.
Houston worked through occasional chemistry issues, frequently turning the ball over on errant passes. Westbrook and Harden combined for 12 turnovers, with Harden leading the game with eight. Harden was 2 of 18 from the 3-point line after going 1 for 8 in the opener. He was 8-for-29 from the field, but was 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
The Rockets bounced back after a 117-111 season-opening loss to Milwaukee on Thursday night.
Brandon Ingram gave Houston’s defense fits, scoring 35 points while adding a game-high 15 rebounds. Lonzo Ball had 18 points on 4 of 9 shooting from 3.
New Orleans is off to its first 0-3 start since the 2016-2017 season.
The Pelicans were without point guard Jrue Holiday, who is day-to-day with a left knee sprain. Hart started in Holiday’s place, scoring 23 points in 34 minutes. The Pelicans are already without top draft pick Zion Williamson, who is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee.
For the last play of the third quarter, Westbrook found Austin Rivers for a corner 3 to cut New Orleans’ lead to 100-97 entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets opened up the final quarter on an 8-0 run, capped off by a thunderous two-handed dunk by Westbrook in transition to put Houston up 105-100.
The Rockets led 29-24 at the end of the first quarter, but the Pelicans had a better second quarter and entered halftime tied at 61.
In the final play of the first half, Harden was unable to cleanly get a 3 off at the buzzer in a heavily defended shot attempt. After the horn sounded, Harden slammed the ball off the court in frustration, only for it to come back hit him in the mouth.
Pelicans: Hart received a technical foul shortly after hitting a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter, possibly for taunting but it was unclear. … Jahlil Okafor fouled out of the game early in the fourth quarter after playing less than 12 minutes in the game.
Rockets: All Houston starters scored in double-figures, and Eric Gordon added 13 points off the bench. … Houston went 13 of 45 from 3 (28.9.
There was a pre-game demonstration outside of the main entrance of the Toyota Center by several dozen people holding signs and wearing shirts in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey angered China with a since-deleted tweet in support of the protesters earlier this month. Several protesters attended Thursday night’s season opener, but fewer were seen in attendance on Saturday night.
ASTROS SCORE UPDATES
Some of the loudest cheers from the relatively lightly attended Toyota Center crowd came when the Rockets posted score updates and video highlights on the videoboard from the Houston Astros’ World Series Game 4, happening simultaneously in Washington. The Rockets PA announcer even accidentally called JJ Redick “Josh Reddick” on one 3-pointer to the crowd before correcting himself. Reddick is an Astros outfielder.
Pelicans: Host Golden State on Monday night.
Rockets: Host Oklahoma City on Monday night.