HOUSTON (AP) — Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum each scored 26 points and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Houston Rockets 117-107 on Sunday night.
McCollum had 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting in the first half as the Pelicans built a 64-44 halftime lead.
“I just got to be aggressive and pick my spots,” McCollum said. “Take advantage of what’s there. I’m going to have good shooting nights, and I’m going to have not so good shooting nights, so it’s just about being aggressive and making sure that I’m trying to put us in the best position to succeed.”
Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Trey Murphy III had 14 points and Herbert Jones scored 13 for the Pelicans, which shot 49%, including 13 of 31 on 3’s.
New Orleans closed the gap to a half-game behind Utah for the final spot in the play in tournament with 11 games left.
“We have to realize we got to play better,” Valanciunas said. “If we want to go to the postseason, we have to play better. Right now, it’s as simple as that. We have to win some games.”
The Pelicans outscored Houston 52-34 in the paint.
“We are a team that attacks the paint normally,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “It was more on the defensive end, not allowing them to attack the paint on us.”
After blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead on Friday night in a 114-112 loss to the Rockets, Green said experience helped prevent something similar from happening on Sunday night.
“We just went through it a couple nights before, and I looked at our guys in the huddle and said ‘We have an opportunity to win the game, but we got to go do it,’” Green said. “We got to take care of the ball; we got to get good looks; we have to get stops. To their credit, they went out and did it.”
Jalen Green scored 40 points, his fourth game scoring at least 40 points this season, Kevin Porter Jr. added 25 and Tari Eason had 10 points for Houston, which saw its season-high three-game winning streak snapped.
“We were just seeing what was available,” Jalen Green said. “For a minute, we got stagnant and weren’t really shifting the defense over. Once we got back to that, running plays and shifting the defense, things started opening up a lot more.”
The Rockets shot 41% and were 9 of 33 on 3-pointers. Houston has the worst record in the West at 18-53.
New Orleans used an 18-6 spurt over the final minute of the first quarter and opening five minutes of the second quarter to open up a 51-34 lead on a 3-pointer by McCollum with 6:50 left in the first half. McCollum had nine points in the run.
Houston would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
New Orleans: The Pelicans dished out 28 assists on 42 made field goals. … Valanciunas was whistled for three defensive 3-second violations.
Houston: The Rockets were 36 of 38 from the free throw line. … Green and Porter combined to shoot 18 of 37 from the field, while the rest of the team was a combined 13 of 39 from the floor.
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Tuesday.
Rockets: Host Golden State on Monday to close out its six-game homestand.