HOUSTON: Anthony Davis had 32 points and 16 rebounds and Elfrid Payton had a triple-double as the retooled New Orleans Pelicans routed the hosting Houston Rockets 131-112 in the season-opener for both teams Wednesday night.
Payton, one of two key off-season acquisitions, had 10 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds, while the other key pick-up, forward Julius Randle, had 25 points off the bench.
Payton was brought in to replace point guard Rajon Rondo, who signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Randle replaced All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins, who signed with the Golden State Warriors, as New Orleans tried to assemble a group to surpass last season’s team which finished sixth in the West and lost to Golden State in the conference semifinals.
Nikola Mirotić added 30 points, including six of eight 3-pointers, as well as 10 rebounds. E’Twaun Moore scored 21 points and Jrue Holiday had 10.
The Rockets didn’t look like a team ready to match or surpass last season when they had the NBA’s best record and took the Warriors to seven games before losing in the West finals.
Eric Gordon came off the bench to lead the Houston with 21 points, P. J. Tucker and Chris Paul had 19 points each, James Harden had 18 – 12 fewer than he averaged while earning the Most Valuable Player award last season – and 10 assists, and Michael Carter-Williams had 10 points.
Carmelo Anthony came off the bench in his Houston debut and finished with nine points.
New Orleans had a 17-point halftime lead after shooting 61.7% in the first half, and the Pelicans didn’t cool off to start the third quarter.
Mirotic made three 3-pointers and Moore added one as five Pelicans contributed points during a spurt that produced a 97-68 lead.
Gordon made a basket and Carter-Williams hit a 3-pointer to start a 16-4 run that pulled the Rockets within 101-84 at the end of the third quarter.
Another basket by Gordon started the fourth-quarter scoring, but New Orleans scored the next six points to take a 107-86 lead.
The Pelicans led by as many as 11 points during the first quarter and finished the period with a 35-29 lead as Davis and Mirotić each had 10 points.
Houston matched New Orleans’ scoring for most of the second quarter before the Pelicans finished with a 16-5 run that saw five players score.
New Orleans held a 71-54 halftime lead which they went on to extend.