Rockets pursue Southwest title, host Pelicans

( - The Houston Rockets will try to remain in the fight for the Southwest Division title Sunday when they host the equally-desperate New Orleans Pelicans at the Toyota Center.

The Rockets trail the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies by a half-game for the division lead.

By virtue of losing the home-and-home series with the Spurs, Houston fell to fifth in the Western Conference standings. The winner of the division will be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

The Pelicans are tied for the eighth and final postseason spot with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City visits the Indiana Pacers Sunday night.

Houston fell victim to the Spurs by 12 in San Antonio on Wednesday, then had a chance for the win Friday at home.

San Antonio led by one when James Harden forced Manu Ginobili into a turnover, giving the ball back to Houston with 6.1 seconds to play. Harden isolated on Kawhi Leonard out of a timeout and drove with his dominant left hand, but Tim Duncan was there to meet him at the rim.

He turned aside the layup, then secured the rebound as the clock expired.

"Got to finish," Harden said. "I've just got to finish."

Harden, one of the league's top candidates for MVP, had just 16 points and 10 assists on 5-of-19 shooting. Josh Smith led the way with 20 points, followed by Trevor Ariza, who added 19. Terrence Jones scored 14, Dwight Howard had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Corey Brewer managed 11 off the bench.

The Rockets head to Charlotte on Monday, then finish the string against the Utah Jazz at home on Wednesday.

The Pelicans earned their second win in the last three Friday with a 90-75 triumph over the Phoenix Suns at Smoothie King Center.

Anthony Davis scored 13 of his 19 points in the final quarter, pulled down nine rebounds, and overcame a blow to the throat.

Davis went up for a lob pass from point guard Jrue Holiday in the opening moments of the second quarter, but suffered a throat contusion when he was inadvertently hit by Phoenix's Earl Barron.

Davis exited immediately to the locker room and did not play the remainder of the half or the third quarter, but went 4-of-6 from the field in the fourth to seal New Orleans' sixth win in eight contests.

"I was having trouble swallowing. The doctors made sure I was okay and it was no hesitation to go back and play," Davis said.

Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans had 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Pelicans. Dante Cunningham posted 12 points and nine rebounds, Norris Cole totaled 12 points, and Omer Asik pulled down 18 rebounds.

Holiday, who played in his first game since January 12 due to a stress reaction in his lower right leg, had two points on 1-of-7 shooting, but contributed five assists.

The Pelicans won the first two matchups this season, but fell in New Orleans on March 25. The Rockets are 5-1 in their last six as the host.