Wednesday’s opening night exercise with the Houston Rockets began on ESPN with a pre-programmed narrative on figurative landing spots for the game’s OG unicorn once the Brow and his Pels began their inevitable slide back to the mean in the 2018-19 season.
The only problem with the segment was that Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans were preparing to blow the doors off of the Toyota Center with a 131-112 thrashing of the Rockets and reigning MVP, James Harden.
For those who haven’t been following closely, Anthony Davis loves the opening night spotlight.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) October 17, 2018
Last year against the Memphis Grizzlies, Davis would finish to the tune of 33 points and 18 rebounds.
And tonight would be no different as Anthony Davis would finish with a game-high 32 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists (career high) to just one turnover, three blocks, three steals on 13/21 from the field. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate from 2017-18 opened the matchup with back-to-back blocks on the freshly paid Clint Capela, as the Pelicans raced out to an early 14-6 lead, and never took their collective foot off of the pedal, leading by as many as 29 points in a game that was never close.
Davis’ defense, coupled with the consistent double-teaming of James Harden and Chris Paul, prompted a 42% night for the Rockets, the league’s most efficient scoring offense from just one season ago. The hounding perimeter defense of newly acquired Elfrid Payton and First Team All-Defensive member, Jrue Holiday kept James Harden and Chris Paul relatively quiet on the night, finishing with a pedestrian (by their standards) 37 points, 16 assists, 14 rebounds and five turnovers on 12/27 shooting.
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
Not only should opponents fear the ever-evolving Davis for his elite help defense, his pterodactyl limbs, his guard like handles, and relentless motor in the paint, now they have to fear Davis’ tools as a facilitator.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 18, 2018
On successive possessions in the first quarter, Davis was met in the post by the 6’5″ PJ Tucker followed by a double team, only for Davis to execute a perfectly placed behind the back bounce pass to a cutting Jrue Holiday and then Nikola Mirotic. Should his game continue expanding in this arena, there will truly be no stopping him.
In fact, along with perimeter shooting, playmaking was the only category in which Anthony Davis did not grade out as an A- or better, according to our very own BBall-Index. With a C- grade, it was Davis’ most glaring deficiency. Teams meeting Davis with double teams prompted breaks in the offensive actions and turnovers.
But not last night. The triumvirate Big Three of Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle and Anthony Davis sent a message to the NBA, that these small-ball lineups will simply not stand a chance. Lost in Davis’ standout performance was the 55 combined points from Nikola Mirotic (30/10), and Julius Randle (25/8/3). Mirotic was a ferocious 6/8 from three-point range, and Julius Randle led fast breaks, dominated the paint to the tune of 17 points in his first ten minutes, and had a big donut in the turnover department. If you’re wondering how many times DeMarcus Cousins kept his turnover count at zero in New Orleans, the answer would be zero times.
The constant attention thrown Davis’ way also opened up the lane for Elfrid Payton, who would score a triple-double in his first night as a Pelican, and E’Twaun Moore, whose 21 points on 8/12 shooting went largely unnoticed on a night where all five starters scored in double digits.
Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans delivered a message to the league’s best regular season team last season and the rest of the NBA last night on a national stage. One that appears to have been lost amidst the endless clamoring for a union with LeBron in Los Angeles
or with Kyrie Irving in Boston
Are you paying attention yet?
For more on the Pelicans and Anthony Davis, check out The Bird Calls Podcast’s recap of the nightly affair featuring all the popular storylines from opening night’s most surprising thrashing!
Listen to “”Is It Time to Crown the New Orleans Pelicans!?”” on Spreaker.