HOUSTON — After sending a loud message Monday that he wants out of New Orleans, Pelicans star Anthony Davis had a quiet Tuesday night in Houston, playing spectator while his short-handed team earned a scrappy 121-116 win over the Rockets.
Davis was unavailable to media before and after the game, and he did not participate in the team’s pregame shootaround session (he has been sidelined with a sprained left index finger). During the game, Davis sat with his teammates on the bench, wearing a gray plaid sport coat over a dark turtleneck with navy pants and white sneakers.
Davis index finger, wrapped in black tape, sidelined him for a fourth straight game. He joked with teammates, listened in on coach Alvin Gentry’s huddle conversations during timeouts and occasionally cheered on the court.
This came just hours after the NBA slapped Davis with a $50,000 fine because of comments Monday from his agent, Rich Paul, that Davis wants to be traded and has no intention of signing an extension before his contract with the Pelicans is up after next season.
The league office said in a written statement that Davis violated a collectively bargained rule prohibiting players or their representatives from making public trade demands.
While Davis was unavailable to discuss Paul’s comments or the league’s fine, Gentry did his best before tipoff to avoid stirring the pot.
“That's going to play out the way it plays out,” Gentry said. “I don’t talk about it very much. I think it’s out in the public now, and I think everything that needed to be said has been said.”
On Tuesday night, the heavily injured and undermanned Pelicans (23-28) put together one of their best games of the season, outplaying the Rockets (29-21) and overcoming James Harden’s 37 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
New Orleans was playing without Davis, Nikola Mirotic (right calf strain), Julius Randle (right ankle sprain), E’Twaun Moore (rest) and Elfrid Payton (right ankle sprain).
Despite their slew of injuries, the Pelicans trailed 66-59 at halftime and got a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds from Jahlil Okafor. Okafor gave Houston fits in the paint, going 11-for-15 in 37 minutes.
“Everybody wants to go out there and show just how good they are,” Okafor said. “When we play hard and play together, we give ourselves a chance to beat anybody.”
Late in the third quarter, Okafor showcased the versatility that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2015 when he had a thunderous dunk in transition over several Rockets defenders. He was fouled and added the free throw to cut Houston’s lead to two.
New Orleans entered the fourth quarter with a 94-91 edge and led by as many as 12 points but ultimately held off Houston.
On a particularly rough shooting night, guard Jrue Holiday saw his six-game streak with at least 20 points snapped. Holiday had 19 points and eight assists, going 6-for-18 from the field.
He made his contributions on the defensive end, however, where he was heavily tasked with blanketing Harden, who struggled but still extended his historic streak to 24 straight games with 30 points or more and leads the league with 36.3 points per game.
“He never has a bad game because he plays at such a high level and competes at such a high level that I don’t think you can ever say he has a bad game,” Gentry said. “I thought he did about as good a job on Harden as you can ever hope for.”
Holiday had a career-high six blocks, many of which came on Harden’s shot attempts. He said he was embracing his “inner Anthony” with the shot-blocking showcase.
Harden went 11-for-32 from the floor, including just 6-of-18 from beyond the arc. Holiday said the Pelicans tried to trap Harden as often as possible.
“I’m glad we got the win and as a team did whatever we could to disrupt James,” Holiday said. “Not only him — we tried to make it hard for everybody.”
The Pelicans snapped a three-game losing streak. They host the Nuggets on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center.
“I’m happy for the guys,” Gentry said. “They played their hearts out. Obviously, beating a team of this caliber and doing it on their home floor is rewarding. The guys that we put out there played extremely hard.”