HOUSTON — With half of his expected rotation sitting out, new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry wanted to mix and match his healthy bodies to see what they could do in different game situations.
For the first three quarters Monday night, Gentry liked what he saw.
New Orleans used big scoring runs to start each half and got 23 points and 11 rebounds from Ryan Anderson to build a double-digit second-half lead against the Rockets.
The Pelicans fell flat in the fourth quarter, however, getting outscored by 27 points, leading to a 120-100 preseason loss to Houston at the Toyota Center.
“I was happy until the last 10 minutes of the game, where I felt we let things slip away,” Gentry said. “I thought we accomplished what we wanted to in the first half, played pretty good in the third quarter and then just didn’t do a good job the rest of the way.
“I thought we lost a little bit of our intensity. We turned the ball over and our transition defense wasn’t very good. With a team like that, you have to play for 48 minutes.”
The Pelicans looked sharp early with their starters. New Orleans went on a 15-0 run in the first quarter and a 15-8 run right after halftime.
Houston outscored New Orleans 40-13 in the fourth quarter, however, with James Harden and Ty Lawson combining for 38 points and five of Houston’s 10 3-pointers.
Former LSU star Marcus Thornton came off the bench to score 16 points and grab six rebounds for the Rockets.
New Orleans star forward Anthony Davis was given the night off to rest, joining Tyreke Evans (knee), Quincy Pondexter (knee), Omer Asik (calf), Norris Cole (ankle), Luke Babbitt (hamstring) and Alexis Ajinca (hamstring) on the bench.
“(Davis) been practicing really hard and hadn’t missed many days,” Gentry said. “This is the perfect time to give him some rest before he gears up for the final two preseason games.”
Starting guard Eric Gordon returned to the lineup and Jrue Holiday upped his minutes in helping lead the Pelicans backcourt.
Gordon had eight points in 15 minutes, including a 3-pointer on his first shot and a soaring fast-break dunk later in the first quarter.
Holiday had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists in the same timespan, after being limited to 10 minutes a game before Monday.
“I thought Jrue did a good job of running our team,” Gentry said. “We’d like to extend (his playing time) more and we will.”
Anderson was the main offensive weapon, hitting 9-of-18 shots, including 2 3-pointers.
“A lot went well,” Anderson said. “I think we had a great tempo to the game. Shots weren’t always falling, but we had the pace we are looking for.
“We struggled a little bit in transition, but It’s still preseason and we will get there. ”
Once the starters were out, several players got extending time. All 12 Pelicans scored, with Jeff Adrien finishing with 11 points and Bryce Dejean-Jones 10.
“We have a few guys that we want to take a real solid look at it,” Gentry said. “We want reserves in the game early to play with some of the starters. you get a better idea of what they can do when they are out there with the starters.”
Gentry also used his lineup to try different things in defending Harden, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
“That is kind of a laugher, because nobody can really guard him, but we want to see how the matchups would go in situations like that,” Gentry said. “James is one of the truly gifted offensive players in the league. You could argue there is no one better.”
New Orleans scored 37 first-quarter points on their way to a 59 point first-half.
“I thought we did a good job with the tempo in the first preseason game, scoring 110 points,” Gentry said. “We felt like we were on our way. The injuries have set us back, but I think we will get eventually get it once we have the right combination of people back there.”
Houston also has been battling preseason injuries, with center Dwight Howard missing his sixth straight preseason game with tightness in his back. Forwards Terrence Jones (concussion), Donatas Motiejunas (back), Corey Brewer (toe) and guard Pat Beverley (groin) also sat out.