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HOUSTON — Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. hit a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to give the Houston Rockets a 114-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the first of two straight games on Friday night.
Smith hit the shot over defender Naji Marshall from just off the right and immediately turned to his coach Stephen Silas, who pointed jubilantly at Smith.
Smith had 11 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes. It was his only 3-pointer in three attempts.
Jalen Green led Houston with 25 points and had seven rebounds and six assists. Kevin Porter Jr. added 20 points and six assists.
Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 31 points. Jonas Valanciunas added 22 points and 17 rebounds, one just below his season high. Valanciunas had his first 20-point game since Jan. 20, bullying the Rockets in the paint and going 10-16 from the field with four blocks on the defensive end.
The teams meet again on Sunday night in Houston.
The Rockets went into the fourth quarter 90-80 down. With Houston threatening late, Ingram blocked Green’s layup that would have reduced the lead to one and made a transition layup. It was a four-point swing that put New Orleans in five by 1:25.
Green hit a 22-foot jumper with 35.1 seconds left to make it 112-111. Porter rebounded Ingram’s miss to give the Rockets final possession with 4.0 seconds left.
Houston put on a 22-0 run in the first half and turned a 26-12 deficit into a 34-26 lead. For parts of the first and second quarters, New Orleans was caught in a dangerous 6-10 scoring dry spell.
New Orleans regained the lead later in the second quarter after Herbert Jones intercepted a bad pass from Alperen Sengun and made a layup. Sengun finished with 17 points.
18-52 is Houston’s first three-game winning streak since December 2021.
Pelicans: Zion Williamson (hamstring) and Jose Alvarado (shin stress reaction) sat on the bench in New Orleans in their plain clothes. … veteran centers Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez didn’t play.
Rockets: Porter received a technical foul midway through the third quarter, apparently for arguing over a foul call. … Jae’Sean Tate had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes.
Pelicans: Stay in Houston for a game Sunday night.
Rockets: Re-host New Orleans Sunday night.
AP NBA: and