HOUSTON — Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. hit a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to give the Houston Rockets a 114-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night in the first of straight games between the teams.
Smith hit the shot over defender Naji Marshall from slightly right of straightaway and immediately turned to his coach Stephen Silas, who was pointing at Smith in celebration.
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 shy of his season high. Valanciunas had his first 20-point game since Jan. 20, bullying the Rockets in the paint and going 10 for 16 from the field with four blocks on the defensive end.
The teams will meet again Sunday night in Houston.
The Rockets entered the fourth quarter trailing 90-80. With Houston threatening late, Ingram blocked Green's layup that would have cut the lead to one and made a layup in transition. It was a four-point swing that put New Orleans up five with 1:25 remaining.
Green hit a 22-foot jumper with 35.1 seconds remaining to make it 112-111. Porter rebounded Ingram's miss to give the Rockets the final possession with 4.0 seconds remaining.
Houston went on a 22-0 run in the first half, turning a 26-12 deficit into a 34-26 lead. Across parts of the first and second quarters, New Orleans was trapped in a scoring drought of 6:10.
New Orleans regained the lead later in the second quarter after Herbert Jones intercepted a bad pass by Alperen Sengun and made a layup. Sengun finished with 17 points.
At 18-52, Houston has its first three-game winning streak since December 2021.
Pelicans: Zion Williamson (hamstring) and Jose Alvarado (tibial stress reaction) sat on the New Orleans bench in plain clothes. Veteran centers Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez did not play.
Rockets: Porter received a technical foul midway through the third quarter, seemingly for arguing over a foul call. Jae’Sean Tate had 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists in 21 minutes.
Pelicans: Remain in Houston for a game on Sunday night.
Rockets: Host New Orleans again on Sunday night.