NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson scored 26 points and Brandon Ingram iced the game with six points in a 13-0 run in the final 2:07 to power the New Orleans Pelicans to a 119-106 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
The Pelicans led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter only to fall behind by eight early in the fourth quarter.
After New Orleans answered with a 16-4 run to take a 106-102 lead on Ingram’s spinning layup, Kevin Porter Jr. tied the game at 106 on a drive through the lane with 2:58 left.
New Orleans then scored the game’s final 13 points, with Ingram hitting a pair of free throws and Jose Alvarado, a sparkplug reserve point guard, nailing a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 111-106 lead. Houston had four turnovers in the final 2:25.
Alvarado had eight of his 12 points in a dominant final quarter to go along with four assists and three steals in the final 11 minutes.
“He was amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He was all over the place. We needed his energy. We needed his effort. It was Jose being Jose.”
Larry Nance Jr. added 22 for the Pelicans, and Ingram finished with 20.
Williamson was efficient, going 8 of 9 from the field and powering inside at will against a defense that gave him more one-on-one opportunities than usual. He also went 10 of 12 from the line.
Williamson credited Alvarado with bringing the Pelicans back from the brink.
“Jose was the X factor — his energy, his consistent ball pressure,” Williamson said. “He carried us in the fourth quarter.”
Houston was paced by Jalen Green with 33 points and Porter with 23 points.
Both Porter and Alvarado were ejected from the game with 11 seconds left when Porter took exception to Alvarado stealing the ball in the final moments. Alvarado said he did not realize the game was essentially over and let his competitiveness come to the forefront.
“I enjoy bringing the energy, not necessarily the drama,” Alvarado said. “It’s more bringing juice to my time. If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it every time.”
Houston coach Stephen Silas said he was happy with the performance of his bench, but bemoaned his young team’s propensity for mistakes. The Rockets committed 26 turnovers, leading to 32 points for the Pelicans.
“The second unit did a great job,” Silas said. “We’ve just got to learn how to win at the end. That’s it. And, experience is the best teacher. Going through this, as painful as it is, we learn from it.”
Rockets: Jalen Green had his third 30-point game of the season. … Houston has lost nine of 10 on the road but will finally start a stretch of five of six at home.
Pelicans: Brandon Ingram surpassed 7,000 career points.
Rockets: Host the LA Clippers on Monday after playing 10 of their first 13 on the road.
Pelicans: Host Memphis on Tuesday in the third of six consecutive home games.