Game Day: Rockets at Pelicans
Daniels nets career-high as Rockets drop 105-100 decision to the New Orleans Pelicans
HOUSTON - Rookie Troy Daniels erupted for 22 points and Donatas Motiejunas delivered a double-double as the Rockets rested several key players while dropping a 105-100 decision to the New Orleans Pelicans in their regular season finale.
With home-court advantage for their first round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers already wrapped up, Houston played it safe by giving James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin the night off in New Orleans. That allowed several Rockets players to see far more playing time than usual, and nobody took advantage of that opportunity quite the way Daniels did. The Virginia Commonwealth product lived up to the reputation he established as a deadeye shooter in the D-League, draining six of his 11 3-point attempts Wednesday night, as he easily set career-highs in each category, and also in scoring. In fact, Daniels more than doubled his NBA scoring total, as he had only tallied 20 points combined coming into tonight’s contest.
Meanwhile, Houston’s otherwise meaningless finale also allowed Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley to continue to work their way back into game shape in the wake of their recent return from injuries. Howard played the entire first and third quarter, and the start of the fourth – though only to launch a corner 3 that rimmed in and out – logging 26 minutes while posting seven points, four rebounds, four assists and three blocks. As for Beverley, he tallied 14 points in 22 minutes of action. Most importantly, both emerged none the worse for wear.
Both of Houston’s second-year power forwards enjoyed strong showings as Terrence Jones frequently overpowered the Pelicans during his 26-minute stint, piling up 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Motiejunas, meanwhile, finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds – seven of which came on the offensive glass, setting a new career-high in that category.
Jordan Hamilton also chipped in with 14 points and four 3s made off the bench for Houston, which finished the season with a record of 54-28 - matching the fourth-best mark in franchise history. The 2013-14 campaign also represented the Rockets' eighth consecutive winning season - the longest such stretch in franchise history.
The Pelicans were led by Tyreke Evans’ 25 points, and Austin Rivers’ 18 points, eight assists and three steals.
Before the game, the NBA announced that Houston will open its postseason series against Portland Sunday night at Toyota Center. Tip-off is slated to take place at 8:30 PM.
On the final minutes of the game:
“Tyreke (Evans) got a couple down-hills on us. We missed a few shots. We didn’t execute very well down the stretch.”
On playing three starters:
“I wanted to get them time. I wanted to see, they were double teaming Dwight (Howard) and I wanted to let him play out of double teams, pitch it out, let him play make from the post some, so we were doing that.”
On how Dwight Howard’s play worked out:
“Good. Our guys didn’t get in the right spots sometimes and they had to come over and help a few times. Tonight was a game, win or lose, we weren’t going to change in the standings. So we played a bunch a guys that we hadn’t played before. Josh (Powell) got some time and it’s time to get some guys comfortable.”
On how it feels to go back to the playoffs:
“It feels good. I’m confident in our team right now. I’m just hoping for the best right now. I’m excited and prepared, and ready to get these playoffs started.”
On how they played tonight:
“We didn’t want to go out there and injure ourselves before what’s ahead. That was the biggest thing. Pat (Beverley) and I felt that we needed a little more conditioning, that’s the biggest reason we played tonight.”
On the way the Pelicans defended:
“I thought it was good, it’s good they double teamed so our guys could hit the spots and play out the double team. You never know what you’ll see in the playoffs so this was good. My focus was getting the ball out of the double team and to the right person.”