NEW ORLEANS — Coming off a career scoring night, guard Tyreke Evans scored 25 points and dished out 10 assists to spark the New Orleans Pelicans to a 105-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans trailed 100-99 with 2:48 left, but Evans, who scored 41 points in a 101-89 victory over Oklahoma City on Monday, took control. He drove into the lane for the go-ahead layup and then reserve center Jeff Withey for a jump hook in the lane that gave New Orleans a 103-100 lead with 1:49 left.
The Rockets (54-28) failed to score in the final 2:48 on their last five possessions. Guard Troy Daniels led Houston with 22 points, hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers.
New Orleans (34-48) closed the season with two consecutive victories, a seven-game improvement over last year.
With nothing on the line, Rockets coach Kevin McHale played it smart. Leading scorer James Harden, averaging 25.4 points per game, forward Chandler Parsons and reserve guard Jeremy Lin all got the night off to prepare for Sunday’s home playoff opener against Portland.
Center Dwight Howard started but played the first and third quarters, finishing with seven points and four rebounds before taking off to keep his gimpy left ankle safe.
The Pelicans used a 13-4 late in the second quarter to turn a 37-34 deficit into a 47-41 lead, and they led 53-50 at the half. Guards Austin Rivers and Tyreke Evans led the way with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Pelicans ended the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers by guard Anthony Morrow and Rivers, and they led 80-78.
When the Rockets failed to score on their first five possessions of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans scored six straight to extend their lead to 90-81.
But Houston kept raining 3-pointers and used the long-range shot to key a 19-9 run, and the Rockets regained the lead, 100-99, on Jordan Hamilton’s steal and coast-to-coast layup with 2:48 left.
NOTES: With C Dwight Howard still nursing a strained left ankle, Houston coach Kevin McHale said he was glad the Rockets’ home playoff opener against Portland won’t be until Sunday night. Since the game Wednesday night had no effect on playoff seeding, McHale rested both G James Harden and F Chandler Parsons. … All eight Western Conference playoff teams had at least 49 wins going into the season finale. “It’s just a bunch of teams that have played well, and everybody’s right around 50,” McHale said. “It should be some great first-round matchups.”… McHale praised New Orleans F Anthony Davis for his All-Star second season. “He had more than I thought he had,” McHale said. … New Orleans coach Monty Williams said despite a rash of injuries, the Pelicans were still playing hard. “At yesterday’s practice, I got a little emotional — our gym was off the charts,” Williams said. “I felt fortunate to be able to coach a group like that.”
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