NEW ORLEANS (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 28 points and the short-handed Pelicans opened up a 31-point lead en route to a 119-108 victory over the struggling Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 17 rebounds for New Orleans. The Pelicans snapped a two-game skid in their first game since learning star power forward Zion Williamson would be sidelined about three weeks by a strained right hamstring.
Jalen Green and Kenyon Martin Jr. each scored 16 points for Houston, with Martin hitting all seven of his shots.
Jabari Smith Jr. had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Eric Gordon added 13 points for the Rockets. They dropped their fifth straight game and lost for the 10th time in 11 contests.
New Orleans raced to a 45-22 lead in the first quarter, during which Rockets coach Stephen Silas was ejected for arguing and gesticulating angrily toward officials.
The Pelicans’ led 63-32 after one of Jose Alvarado’s three 3-pointers. New Orleans led 75-52 at the half and 98-73 after the third quarter before the Pelicans stagnated so much in the final period that coach Willie Green had to bring McCollum and Valanciunas back into the game with 7:41 to go with New Orleans up by 18.
But the Rockets continued to close the gap, getting as close as 115-108 on Josh Christopher’s driving scoop with 47 seconds left.
Trey Murphy III and Willy Hernangomez each scored 14 points for New Orleans, which is off to its best start at home in franchise history at 17-4. Alvarado finished with 13 points.
Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr scored 11 points. … Shot 44.3% (39 of 88) overall and 31.6% (12 of 38) from 3-point range. … Finished with 41 bench points. … Fell to 4-16 on the road.
Pelicans: F Brandon Ingram missed his 19th straight game because of a left great toe contusion. … F Larry Nance Jr. missed his fourth straight game with a sore right shoulder. … Converted 13 Rockets turnovers into 25 points. … Shot 36.8% (14 of 38) from deep.
Rockets: Host Utah on Thursday night.
Pelicans: Host Brooklyn on Friday night.