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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Solomon Hill hadn't been on the court for two minutes when he received a pass from Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday on the perimeter and decisively drained a 3-pointer.
There were five more long-range baskets to come from Hill, who scored a career-high 30 points to help the New Orleans Pelicans overcome the absence of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in a 128-112 upset over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Hill was averaging just 6.5 points per game coming in, spending most of this season focused on defense. Against Houston, he helped the Pelicans beat the Rockets at their own, up-tempo game.
"When you get that shot, you've got to take it," Hill said. "That's what I'm just getting comfortable with, just my teammates finding me and making the most of the opportunity."
Hill made six of his eight field goals from beyond the 3-point line and drew fouls by attacking the hoop, hitting 8 of 9 free throws.
"He looked great," Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis said. "He was talking and being aggressive — a guy who's just been doing what the team asks of him, what the coach asks of him, and to go out there and have a night like this was huge for him, huge for us."
Davis had 24 points and 15 rebounds and Jrue Holiday added 19 points for New Orleans, which has won three of four.
James Harden had 41 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, but that was not enough to prevent Houston's first loss in four games. He was the only Houston starter to reach 10 points. Lou Williams added 14 points and Montrezl Harrell 13 in reserve roles.
"James had a phenomenal game, but we were lethargic starting and they got every ball, every rebound, and every fast break and we never broke out of that," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We have to write that one off and get to the next one."
Cousins was sidelined by left knee and rib soreness. New Orleans is now 2-0 without him and 3-7 when he's played since trading for him Feb. 19.
"When DeMarcus is out, roles change and guys have got to step up," Davis said. "When he's playing, we've got to change it back, kind of slowing it down and playing from the inside out.
"But I think what we did well tonight — we moved the basketball," Davis stressed. "Whether he's playing or not, it makes the game a lot easier."
Coach Alvin Gentry said Cousins is day-to-day. Without him, New Orleans' offense appeared fluid and balanced. The Pelicans shot 53.3 percent (49 of 92) and led by 23 points early in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets briefly pulled within 11 when Harden's 11th assist set up Patrick Beverly's layup with 5:27 remaining. But after a Pelicans timeout, Hill hit a 3. Then E'Twaun Moore set up Davis' fast-break dunk to quickly push New Orleans' lead back to 16.
Houston had won each of the previous two meetings by 22 or more points, each time hitting at least 20 3s. This time, the Pelicans defended aggressively on the perimeter, which provided Harden opportunities to attack the basket but seemed to stifle many other usual contributors such as Eric Gordon (12 points) and Ryan Anderson (eight points). The Rockets shot 41.6 percent and went 13 of 40 from deep.
"We tried to get them off the 3-point line and did a good job," Gentry said, crediting top assistant Darren Erman with the defensive game plan. "If you can hold them to 13 3-point shots, I think you got a chance."
Rockets: Beverly and Anderson both were assessed technical fouls. Beverly disputed a foul called on him when he appeared to block Tim Frazier's driving shot. Anderson appeared frustrated when he went to the floor trying to guard Davis' made layup. From his back, Anderson flipped the dead ball vigorously to official Ken Mauer, drawing his technical.
Pelicans: Rookie guard Wayne Selden, who is in the midst of a 10-day contract, scored 11 points in his third career NBA game. ... Frazier, who scored 14 points, saw extended early playing time because of Holiday committing two early fouls and helped New Orleans build a lead as large as 21 in the first half.
Rockets: Visit Denver on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Host Minnesota on Sunday night.
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