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Monster games by Pelicans’ Davis, Mirotic destroy Houston

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Houston, TX— Anthony Davis finished with a near triple-double as the New Orleans Pelicans (1-0) defeated the Houston Rockets (0-1), 131-112.

This was a matchup between two teams who love the opportunity to play out on the open floor. Both teams were among the lead leaders in pace last season and this game would showcase the up-tempo style of play.

New Orleans really did a great job of getting up and down the floor in the first quarter and whatever Nikola Mirotic ate before the game or the night before, the Pelicans should make sure that they feed him the same thing come next game. Mirotic got off to a hot start finishing with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and knocking down two threes.

Davis, who seems poised to be a top candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award this season, also made his presence felt early on finishing with 10 points of his own to go along with three rebounds and two blocks on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting.

Not only were Mirotic and Davis off to a hot start in the opening frame, but as a team, New Orleans shot very well from the field shooting 65 percent. In addition, 20 of their 35 first-quarter points came from inside. Houston would have a tough time responding to the Pelicans fantastic start in the period as they only shot 45 percent from the field as a team.

The Rockets shot 12 threes in the first frame and made six. However, Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul didn’t get off to the start that they expected as the duo only combined for 10 points. Despite their struggles, a player that had a good start was Carmelo Anthony. He came in off the bench and contributed five early points including one three-pointer.

The fast-paced style of play continued in the second quarter as both teams were putting up shots early and often. However, when the game began to slow down and New Orleans started playing in their half-court set, they took advantage of a small Houston team inside.

It seemed that the Rockets game plan was to switch on the pick and roll with most teams — that did not work against the Pelicans in this contest. Anytime that Houston switched, New Orleans dumped the ball inside to Davis and Julius Randle. Guys like Elfrid Payton — who contributed with a triple double (10 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) and E’Twaun Moore also got easy baskets inside. Whenever the Rockets decided to double team the Pelicans’ two big men, their guards were able to make exquisite cuts to the basket for easy twos.

New Orleans as a team finished the half with 42 points in the paint and the trio of Mirotic, Randle, and Davis combined for 50 of the Pelicans 71 first-half points.

Houston wasn’t going to go away from who they are which is a team that wants to put up a lot of three-pointers. They shot 25 threes in the first half but only made eight. The missed threes, to go along with their poor first-half shooting performance and being absolutely bullied inside, allowed the Pelicans to go into the half up by 17, 71-54.

The third frame, New Orleans smelled blood in the water and tried to put the nail in the coffin. You didn’t want to touch Mirotic in the third because if you did you’d burn your fingers. Mirotic, who finished the game with 30 points and 10 rebounds, had a 15-point third quarter. He knocked down shot after shot as he tried to put the game out of reach.

Julius Randle, who had a monster game, was an amazing pick up for New Orleans in the off-season. With DeMarcus Cousins now in Golden State, the Pelicans needed a big body who could also be a versatile guy inside and out. Randle was definitely that in the contest as he finished with 25 points, eight boards, and three assists.

Houston made it interesting in the third period as the team tried to make a late-game push. The Rockets would finish the third on a 16-4 run led by Harden, who had 12 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. At this point in the game, the lead was trimmed down to 17 after being down by as many as 29 points, 101-84.

Although the Rockets tried to capitalize on its new found energy, it wasn’t enough to deter New Orleans. The Pelicans withstood Houston’s storm and regained their composure to finish out the contest strong. Davis was the man who led the charge in the team’s victory.

Davis finished the game with 32 points, 16 rebounds, eight assist and three blocks. He was an absolute beast on the defensive end and took advantage of the mismatches that went in his favor on the offensive end. Davis was throwing down lobs, blocking shots and being an amazing team leader for the Pelicans. He seemed to have a fire in his eye to put the league on notice that he’s possibly a top-5 player in the league. In addition, if you don’t want to take notice, Davis is going to reign terror and wreak havoc on opposing teams every time he steps out on the floor.

Houston probably didn’t expect the Pelicans to do what they did against them, losing the game, 131-112. The Rockets have a lot to work on this season. With the team being a small group, especially on the interior, they’re going to get taken advantage of inside. In addition, the better teams in the league are going to make sure that they take advantage of those mismatches as New Orleans did in the ball game.

The Rockets want to outshoot you and that’s fine. Yet, when you live by the three you also die by it. When you only shoot 33 percent from the outside, give up 76 points in the paint and outrebounded by 17 (54-37), you’re going to have a tough time beating top-tier teams. It is only one game and Houston has time to figure it out, though.

The Rockets will be in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Oct. 20. On the opposing end, the Pelicans will prepare to face the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 19. New Orleans and Houston will see each other again on Dec. 29.

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