Posted on March 18, 2018, by Travis Pulver

When the New Orleans Pelicans lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending injury back in January, expectations for the Pelicans went down with him. Yes, the team still had Anthony Davis. But one superstar does not a playoff contender make—usually.

But as the season winds down, they find themselves in a position to make it in. They just need to keep winning. That, of course, was going to be easier said than done against the Houston Rockets Saturday night.

Via @Jbokse

Sure enough- they were within reach of the Rockets late in the game. But then the refs made a questionable foul call against the Pelicans that sent James Harden to the line to shoot four. As could be expected, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was not happy with the call.

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“You can’t guess on plays when you’ve got teams playing for playoff spots. You can’t guess on the game. You can’t guess on the fouls,” Gentry said after the game (ESPN). “That’s not the way you do it.”

Harden, an 87 percent free throw shooter this season, made all four and put the Rockets up by ten points, 95-85. Gentry was so angry he ended up getting hit with a technical foul. His comments after the game will likely earn him a fine from the league as well.

But there was still plenty of time on the clock (5:39), so the game was far from won.

It would have been a heck of a comeback had New Orleans been able to pull it off. Houston had been in control for much of the game. The Rockets led by three after the first, 32-29, and extended the lead to six points at the half. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Houston led by 12.

An early surge got it down to four points, 85-81, following Cheick Diallo’s layup with 10:03 to play. But they couldn’t get closer. Chris Paul hit a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds to go to close out the scoring and make the final 107-101.

James Harden led the way for Houston with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists followed by Chris Paul with 21 points. Trevor Ariza chipped in 17. For the Pelicans, Anthony Davis led the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds followed by Jrue Holliday with 19 points.

Houston will try to keep the good times rolling Sunday night when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves. New Orleans will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard Sunday against the Boston Celtics.

Via @CBSSportsNBA

The Aftermath

While he was angry with the refs, Gentry didn’t hold anything against Harden. He even went as far as to call Harden the MVP. But many think Anthony Davis is deserving of the award as well. If the Pelicans can make the playoffs, he might have a shot.

But right now, it is not looking good.

Saturday’s loss is the fourth for the Pelicans in their last five games. With a record of 39-30, they are currently the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. But they are just a half game behind the No. 5-7 seeds which are all 40-30. They have a 1.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets for the 8-seed.

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