NEW ORLEANS — The Pelicans were missing their top two scorers and the face of the franchise they had missed all season.

The Rockets lacked much more.

They lacked intensity, effort and discipline. They lacked composure and determination. They were missing the fight that marked both encouraging wins last week, replacing it all with one of their worst performances of the season.

The Rockets displayed so little defensive intensity that they turned the Pelicans who played into suitable replacements for Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson who were watching from the end of the bench.

The Pels played with so much more effort that they took a 30-point lead and cruised through the fourth quarter to a 130-105 game at the Smoothie King Center on Sunday, tying the most points than even the Pelicans. relatively complete had marked the whole season. .

Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas looked like a bearded school bully preying on little kids, needing just 27 minutes to score 32 points while forcing the Rockets to send in a double-team assist and opening the way for pelicans around him to choose between wide-opening shots.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas said the disparity in effort was “in part.” But pointed to the difference between the Pelicans’ oversized frontcourt and the smaller Rockets, especially with center Christian Wood in his first days back from his illness.

“Their height, we had to counter their height with an extra, an extra,” Silas said. “We didn’t have that extra tonight. C-Wood was coming back from not playing and doing nothing, with Al-P (Sengun) getting in trouble. Their size definitely hurt us.

That was enough for the Pelicans to lead 98-72 for three quarters without shooting particularly well. They had a lot of help.

The Rockets, who lead the NBA in turnovers with an average of 16.6 per game, committed 22 before the start of the fourth quarter, often snaking back defensively as the Pelicans scored 27 on the numerous gifts from the Rockets.

As the Pelicans, and especially Jaxson Hayes, put on a show, the Rockets looked like they were judging in a dunk contest.

“I don’t think our efforts have anything to do with our bottom lines,” Silas said. “It was a bad decision more than that. I would say their size, turnovers and fouls were the main points of the game.

Some of the 25 turnovers could have been attributed to playing without veteran guards Dennis Schröder and Eric Gordon, with Schröder ruled out during the day through illness and Gordon a late scratch after starting rosters were announced with knee tendonitis law. But many of the turnovers came from mired possessions, resulting in forced passes or sloppiness.

Gordon had pains in the morning shootout, but they flared up during warmups, leading to the decision to have him sit out.

Jalen Green scored 17 points in 27 minutes, missing a second straight fourth quarter with the bench cleared early. But his partner in the Rockets’ backcourt, Kevin Porter Jr., shot just 2 of 9, with five turnovers.

Even when the Rockets started the game relatively well, moving the ball hard, hitting the boards against one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, they seemed laid back, almost relaxed. Once things got bad, the Rockets fell apart.

It started with the second unit on the ground and the Pelicans scored easily. The Rockets gave up a layup in the first second of the first quarter, Jose Alvarado beating them to the ground after a 3-point Sengun to beat the shot clock with 6.4 seconds left. They gave up almost everything the Pelicans wanted in the second quarter.

Sengun scored seven points in his first seven minutes, but the Pelicans repeatedly attacked him in the paint, scoring inside and fouls four times to force him to the bench.

When the Rockets sent their starters to the ground, they came back in front with Jae’Sean Tate scoring an offensive rebound. But as soon as he left, the Pelicans burned down the Rockets. They needed just five minutes to tear up a 23-5 run, with Valanciunas maneuvering where he wanted to go and Hayes flying over the edge.

When Hayes added another alley-oop slam to end the half, the Pelicans had a 69-55 lead, scoring 39 points in the second quarter when they made 16 of 25 shots.

When the Pelicans scored on their first five possessions of the second half, it was clear that nothing had changed and the rout was on.