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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans seek to steal season opener against Houston Rockets

The Anthony Davis MVP campaign begins in some very hostile territory!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Being mere hours from the start of a new NBA season, there are few happier days for avid hoop followers!

While four teams kicked off the schedule a day earlier, the vast majority — including the New Orleans Pelicans — are commencing the 82-grind sometime Wednesday evening. First up for our favorite birds, the Houston Rockets. They will undoubtedly pose a challenge on so many levels, but New Orleans must also deal with some daunting history.

For whatever reason, the Pelicans have enjoyed little success in the very first games on the schedule during the Anthony Davis era. To be precise, they’ve won just once in six attempts, with the lone victory coming during the 2014-15 season against the Orlando Magic. Interestingly, the New Orleans franchise was a lot more fortunate pre-AD, winning eight of their ten season openers.

NBA: Preseason-Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Asides this recent oddity, the Pelicans will have their hands full battling the owners of the best record from the last regular season and who came within one victory of sending the Warriors home in the playoffs. In addition, Houston has had New Orleans number since the 2018 Most Valuable Player came aboard. In the teams’ previous 24 matchups, James Harden’s Rockets emerged victorious 17 times, and only once did New Orleans steal a victory on Houston’s floor.

Now that I’ve fully rained on your opening day parade, let’s mention the importance of the next 6+ months. Although the stakes were quite high during the DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo experiment, there’s more riding on the line one year later — the future of one of the league’s biggest stars could be up in the air. The New Orleans Pelicans have to build off last year’s accomplishments because Anthony Davis wants to keep winning and enjoying postseason success.

Can the Pelicans get off on the right foot with an improbable win? We’ll probably get our answer soon after Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis — the expected starting lineup — take the floor.

Three Keys to Victory

Get out to the three-point shooters. In the Pelicans lone win over the Rockets, Houston connected on 12 three-pointers. In the three losses, the Rockets made 15, 17 and 18 triples. Houston averaged nearly 16 made threes in victories last season but 13.1 in defeats. There seems to be a clear line of demarcation — stay south of it!

Get off to a great start. The Rockets had no issues with getting up for contests from the opening tip. They were far and away the most dominant team in first quarters last season, posting a ridiculous +18.1 Net Rating in that frame. The best way to neutralize Houston in the opening 12 minutes? Score early, often, and most importantly, be efficient. Hit the Rockets in the mouth first and the Pelicans should have more than a puncher’s chance of stealing a big road win.

Avoid a preseason hangover. New Orleans was destroyed in the paint and off of turnovers during exhibition play. That remotely can’t be allowed to continue, and in fact, the Pelicans must try to flip the script. The Rockets were outscored by nearly 10 points in the paint and 3.5 points off turnovers in their 17 regular season losses. One thing that likely needs to happen for the Pelicans to dominate these two categories is Anthony Davis dominating his expected matchup against Clint Capela. Make the Rockets center an afterthought while proving to onlookers you’re the best player in the league!

Geaux Pels!!!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets

Where: Toyota Center

When: Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: ESPN, Fox Sports New Orleans, 99.5 FM WRNO