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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Ben DuBose

Takeaways: In loss to Pelicans, Rockets bullied inside by Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas

In their first game coming out of the NBA’s 2024 All-Star break, the Rockets (24-31) continued their road misery with Thursday’s 127-105 loss (box score) in New Orleans. Houston is 5-22 away from home this season and has lost six of its last seven, overall, while the Pelicans (34-22) won for the eighth time in nine games.

Houston’s frontcourt of Alperen Sengun, Dillon Brooks and Jabari Smith Jr. struggled to offer much resistance against the bruising, physical front line of Jonas Valanciunas and Zion Williamson.

Key statistics for the Pelicans included:

  • Valanciunas: 20 points, 14 rebounds in 27 minutes; 9-of-12 shooting (75%), 2-of-2 on 3-pointers
  • Williamson: 27 points, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in 35 minutes; 12-of-21 shooting (57.1%)
  • C.J. McCollum: 28 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists in 31 minutes; 11-of-22 shooting (50%), 4-of-10 on 3-pointers (40%)

Alperen Sengun led the Rockets with 20 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 6-of-9 from the field (66.7%). However, many of those statistics were tallied in the second half of a blowout, and his defense against Valanciunas left much to be desired.

On the perimeter, it was another subpar shooting night for Jalen Green, who finished with 10 points in 24 minutes while shooting 3-of-14 from the field (21.4%) and 2-of-8 on 3-pointers (25%).

Rookie guard Amen Thompson was the bright spot for Houston, finishing with a career-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting (69.2%) and 1-of-3 from 3-point range (33.3%). The athletic 6-foot-7 reserve also stuffed the stat sheet with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.

Tari Eason (left lower leg injury management) remained sidelined for the Rockets, who have not seen their versatile second-year forward play since Jan. 1. Houston is 12-10 with Eason this season and 12-21 without him. Brandon Ingram (illness) was out for the Pelicans.

Here’s our look at Thursday’s highlights and postgame interviews, along with reaction by media members and fans. Fortunately for the Rockets, next up is Friday’s game versus Phoenix at Toyota Center, where Houston is 19-9 this season. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. Central.

Feb. 22 Rockets-Pelicans reaction

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