Tyreke Evans leads Pelicans past Rockets in season finale

Tyreke Evans had his second consecutive strong performance, and the New Orleans Pelicans ended a difficult season on a happy note.

Evans had 25 points and 10 assists, continuing his determined drives to the basket, and the Pelicans defeated the Houston Rockets 105-100 at Smoothie King Center on Wednesday in the teams’ final game of the season.

“We played. We competed. We tried to win,” Rockets All-Star center Dwight Howard said. “But our second unit didn’t do a really good job of protecting the rim, and Tyreke did a really good job.”

The win was the second consecutive for the Pelicans (34-48), both coming against teams in the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The Rockets (54-28) are the fourth seeds and play the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at Houston in the first game of the season.

Point guard Austin Rivers came back from an ejection in Monday’s victory against Oklahoma City to get 18 points and eight rebounds. Anthony Morrow continued his fine play down the stretch of this season with 15 points.

And point guard Brian Roberts limped on the court to qualify for the league’s free-throw shooting title, joining blocked shots champ Anthony Davis as category winners.

Evans and Jeff Withey teamed to lead New Orleans late. Evans had two layups and Withey a hook in the lane off a pass from Evans that gave the Pelicans a 105-100 lead. And Withey blocked two shots in the stretch.

He contested a 3-point attempt by Omri Casspri with 17 seconds left that sealed the outcome.

Justin Hamilton scored a finger-roll layup on the fast break, giving Houston a 100-99 lead with 2:48 left, as the Rockets outscored New Orleans 19-9 during a five minute, 12-second stretch.

Luke Babbitt had scored seven consecutive points in a 10-2, four-minute run that gave the Pelicans a 90-81 lead at 7:42 of the fourth.

However, some long shooting kept Houston in it, including two 3-pointers by Troy Daniels and one by Hamilton, as the Rockets battled back to 94-92 at 4:52.

New Orleans led 80-78 entering the fourth after consecutive 3-pointers by Anthony Morrow and Austin Rivers in the last 48.1 seconds of the third.

Coming out of halftime with a three-point lead, New Orleans increased it to 58-50 two minutes into the third. The Pelicans led 60-55, but the Rockets continued to claw back.

Houston finally tied the score at 70 on a 3-pointer by Patrick Beverley at the 2:50 mark, and the Rockets went ahead, 75-74 at 1:38.

But Morrow and Rivers sank 3s around one by Houston reserve center Danatas Motiejunas, giving the Pelicans the slim lead.

The Pelicans went into halftime leading 53-50 on the strength of a late run led by Evans and Al-Farouq Aminu but mostly tough defense.

The quarter proved eventful because of Roberts’ achievement. Out the past two games with a sprained left ankle, he entered the game at 1:12 of the first quarter. He drove, was fouled by Houston’s Patrick Beverley with 19.7 seconds showing and made the first of two free throws.

Roberts drove and was fouled by guard Isaiah Canaan at 9:39 of the second quarter and made both free throws, qualifying with 125 makes for the season (125-of-133). He was taken out of the game by coach Monty Williams at the 9:07 mark.

The Pelicans held the Rockets to 7-of-24 shooting in the second quarter while shooting 10-of-22. New Orleans ended the half shooting 51.2 percent and holding the Houston to 37.2.

The Rockets led 39-35 with 5:21 showing. However, an 12-2 run by the Pelicans gave them a 47-41 lead with 2:35 left. During the run, Aminu got a layup on the break, tipped in a shot and dunked on a drive-and-dish by Evans.

Anthony Morrow started the burst with a 12-foot jump shot and also had a pull-up 6-footer in the run.

But the Rockets came back and closed to 51-50 on an offensive rebound by Motiejunas with 32.9 seconds left. Morrow drove for a reverse layup to give the Pelicans the three-point margin at halftime.

Houston led 30-28 after the first, in which New Orleans led 11-4 four minutes into the quarter.

The Rockets did so on the strength of 9-of-15 free-throw shooting, while the Pelicans made just four of eight. Houston also made three 3-pointers to two by New Orlans.

Power forward Terrence Jones brought Houston back from the early deficit, and finished the quarter with 11 points and eight rebounds.

Miller and Alexis Ajinca scored seven each and Evans six for New Orleans.