HOUSTON -- Contributions came on the defensive end, on the offensive glass and from behind the arc and, for a team anticipating growth into championship contention, such signs of cohesion are wildly positive.
Forward Chandler Parsons scored on a late putback of his own miss, one of several key plays from multiple players as the Houston Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-98 on Saturday night at Toyota Center.
Rockets center Dwight Howard posted 24 points and 18 rebounds while Parsons added 19 points and seven rebounds. All five starters scored in double figures for Houston (21-11) and each produced at least one memorable play down the stretch to subdue the Pelicans.
"We just kept playing," Parsons said. "Guys didn't get frustrated. Guys didn't get down on each other. We just kept moving the ball and we really stepped up on the defensive end because in the last four minutes we needed to get stops and we locked in and got it done."
A sudden splurge from deep enabled the Rockets to seize the lead for good with 3:15 left and answer a Pelicans run that knocked Houston on its heels. New Orleans scored eight consecutive points after the Rockets pushed in front 86-82, its last basket coming on Anthony Davis' dunk.
And after Davis added an alley-oop slam that put the Pelicans up 92-88, the Rockets responded with three successive three-point possessions.
Houston forward Terrence Jones wrestled away a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up the court, and then scored a driving layup through Ryan Anderson's foul. Jones completed the three-point play before point guard Jeremy Lin and guard James Harden nailed back-to-back 3s, the latter delivering the Rockets a 97-94 lead with 3:15 to play.
After missing 19 of their first 22 3-point shots, the Rockets hit 3 of 4 to retake the lead for good. Harden scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter while Lin drilled both of his 3-point attempts in the final period.
For a second consecutive home game Houston enjoyed a significantly favorable free-throw disparity, attempting 32 free throws to the Pelicans' eight.
"Anything I say is going to get me in trouble," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "OK, so, let's leave it at that. Thirty-two to eight."
A non-factor because of foul difficulties two nights earlier against the Memphis Grizzlies, Howard staked the Rockets to a double-digit lead with a monster first quarter. He posted 10 points and eight rebounds as Houston managed an 11-point lead before the Pelicans' bench rallied.
Evans, who entered on a torrid stretch of statistical brilliance, sparked the comeback early in the second quarter before Anderson warmed up later in the period. When Anderson buried a trey with 18.9 seconds left in the first half, New Orleans capped a 14-3 run and pulled even at 52.
Anderson, 1 of 5 from behind the arc in the first quarter, closed the half with 14 points. Better still, the Pelicans engaged Houston in their style of play until the Rockets found an extra gear over the waning moments.
"It was exactly where we wanted it," Anderson said. "We knew how to play this game tonight and we did what we wanted to. They just made better plays than us down the stretch. That's just what happened."
NOTES: Pelicans reserve G Tyreke Evans has been scorching of late, averaging 19.0 points, 9.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds in his last four games. What has caught the eye of New Orleans coach Monty Williams is Evans' defense against a string of capable scorers. "To me, his defense has been what's helped us win," Williams said. "If he can continue to defend that way, it helps him get out and get easier buckets, and then it gives him more confidence to score." ... Pelicans G Eric Gordon missed his second consecutive game with a right hip contusion. ... Count Rockets coach Kevin McHale among the fans of New Orleans second-year C Anthony Davis, who, according to McHale, has made strides offensively simply by working hard. "He does most of it on his own and (it's) repeatable what he does," McHale said. "Roll hard every single time, run hard every single time, go to the offensive glass every single time. He gets most of his stuff like that."