The New Orleans Pelicans dominated from the very beginning and never trailed from the opening tip at the Toyota Center, winning 131-112. The Houston Rockets had no answers for the Pelicans big Big Three, and each of the Pelicans’ starters wound up scoring in double digits.
Anthony Davis finished with a line of 32 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and added three steals and three blocks for good measure. He shot an efficient 13/21 from the field and was undeniably the best player in a game that featured the 2018 MVP James Harden.
The Pelicans rode the hot hand of Nikola Mirotic early, who finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Julius Randle added 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists off the bench in just 24 minutes of run.
The Pelicans stormed out to a 9-3 lead, and 14-6 overall behind two triples from Mirotic, a gorgeous alley-oop from Elfrid Payton to Anthony Davis, and a backdoor cut by Jrue Holiday, who was the glad recipient from the double-teamed AD.
New Orleans managed to click on all cylinders, connecting on 16 of their first 25 shots in the first quarter, three of seven from deep. Julius Randle made his first appearance in the second part of the first quarter, quickly hit his first three-point attempt and almost converted an And-1 opportunity. He then led a fast break off a chaotic steal and found Davis safely under the hoop for an easy score.
#DoitBig was in fashion right from the start, with the three-headed monster of a frontcourt between Davis, Mirotic and Randle combining for 27 of the Pelicans’ 35 points in the first quarter.
Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle have absolutely dominated the Houston Rockets, combining for 25 points in a hair over 9 minutes of the first quarter. #DoItBig is alive and well.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) October 18, 2018
The Rockets led the league in three-point shooting in 2017-18, and 2018-19 looks to be no different. 20 three point attempts in their first 16 minutes, converting 40%, kept it close early. Then a steady aggressive diet of James Harden and Michael Carter-Williams pulled the Rockets within five at 48-43 with over five minutes to play in the second.
But the fourth highest scoring offense in the NBA was no match for the league’s fastest team and fourth most efficient team. The Pelicans looked a different team altogether from the 0-5 preseason disaster we witnessed weeks earlier. The ball movement was a just thing of beauty as the team finished with 36 assists against only 12 turnovers.
And the pace was downright dizzying.
The ball was coming out of Elfrid Payton's hands at the goal with 20 seconds on the shot clock.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) October 18, 2018
Anthony Davis was his usual brilliant self, with a new feature added. On ensuing possessions, Anthony Davis used a behind the back bounce pass for two easy points by Jrue Holiday, and then again one possession later to Nikola Mirotic.
Uh-oh, NBA, did Anthony Davis grow eyes in the back of his head?!?— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) October 18, 2018
He would finish the half with 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks in 18 minutes. Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle combined for 32 points on 12/16 shooting. The Pelicans shot 62% on the half, with 29 made shots on 18 assists and only five turnovers. The Pelicans entered the locker room with a delightful 71-54 advantage and 42-20 advantage in the paint.
Houston Rockets trailed by double digits at halftime just FIVE TIMES last season. They lost 4 of 5 of those games -- interestingly the only win was their biggest halftime comeback on the season (trailed Suns 57-40)— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) October 18, 2018
The New Orleans Pelicans are up 71-54 on the Rockets. #DoItBig pic.twitter.com/I4cd1OQMBJ
The Rockets shot an uncharacteristic 38% on 50 shots, led by James Harden with 10 points. Capela scored just four points, and the Rockets had no answer for the Pelicans’ bigs.
Carmelo Anthony tried to shoot a pull-up long 2 over Anthony Davis. It did not end well for Carmelo Anthony pic.twitter.com/NUt0v4vlMi— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) October 18, 2018
The third quarter highlights continued as the Pelicans gained an advantage of 29 points at 97-68. Mirotic’s hot shooting game paced the Pelicans along with E’Twaun Moore. The Rockets would respond with a 16-4 run to close the quarter, 101-86, but New Orleans never allowed Houston to get any closer than that throughout the fourth, coasting to just their second opening-night win of the Anthony Davis era.
Stay tuned for Kevin’s full recap coming up a bit later, but for now, listen to our podcast recapping the game while celebrating for one night — the New Orleans Pelicans destroyed the best team from the last regular season and won on a floor they hadn’t enjoyed a victory since December 18, 2014.