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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CTNaN:� , October 17, 2018
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Rockets launch season of big expectations vs. Pelicans

According to STATS
According to STATS

New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets

  1. The Pelicans finished at 48-34 (.585) last season, their best record since 2008-09 when they were the Hornets (49-33, .598). They swept Portland in the opening round of the playoffs, just the second playoff series they have won in team history (also in 2007-08).
  2. The Rockets made an NBA-record 1,256 three-pointers last season, breaking their own record set the year before. Seven different players had at least 100 threes, the most in NBA history.
  3. The Rockets are 6-2 against the Pelicans over the last two seasons, winning the last two matchups in 2017-18. Houston scored at least 110 points in seven of those eight games.
  4. MVP James Harden finished last season averaging 30.4 points, the second-highest in Rockets history behind Moses Malone in 1981-82 (31.1). He is the third player since the three-point line was born in 1979-80 to average at least 30.0 points and 8.0 assists, joining Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Michael Jordan in 1988-89.
  5. Anthony Davis averaged 28.1 points and 11.1 rebounds last season, nearly identical to his numbers the previous year (28.0/11.8). He is the first player to average at least 28 points and 11 rebounds in consecutive seasons since Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-00 and 2000-01.
  6. Houston finished last season going 34-7 (.829) at home, tied with the Raptors for the best record in the NBA and the team's best home record in a season since 1993-94 (35-6, .854). The Pelicans were 24-17 (.585) on the road last season, their second-best record in team history (26-15, .634 in 2007-08).

HOUSTON -- Sometimes the waiting is the most difficult part.

Having taken the NBA by storm last season en route to a franchise-record 65 wins and Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets spent the offseason lamenting what might have been while reworking the margins of their roster in preparation for another title pursuit.

The Rockets host the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center on Wednesday with their eyes on the prize once more. Standing between them and their third Larry O'Brien Trophy are the Golden State Warriors, as always. Houston revamped its rotation with additions noteworthy and complementary, knowing each piece could make an impact over the course of a long haul.

"Just the additions that we've added to our team, kind of piggybacking off of last year," Rockets guard and league MVP James Harden said on what stirs his excitement entering the season opener. "Just bringing this whole thing together. Training camp has been really, really good, preseason has been great. But this long grind of an 82-game season will be even better."

After losing defensive-minded forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute to free agency, the Rockets finally landed veteran forward Carmelo Anthony following a multiyear pursuit.

Anthony is the highest-profile addition, but not the only personnel change of note for Houston. The rotation will now feature James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams, and Marquese Chriss, with Brandon Knight likely to join the fray once when he returns from offseason knee surgery. How these newcomers reshape the Rockets' established identity remains to be seen.

"You never know until you play the first game," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There'll be some rough spots that we have to get better at but I think the guys physically are in a pretty good spot and we're ready to roll."

The Pelicans made offseason changes, too, namely guard Elfrid Payton, forward Julius Randle, and center Jahlil Okafor. But their personality was set midway through last season when DeMarcus Cousins was lost to injury, Nikola Mirotic arrived via trade one week later and the Pelicans led the league in pace over the final 31 games at 102.9 possessions per 48 minutes.

Nothing has changed in that regard. The Pelicans still aim to run, with All-NBA center/forward Anthony Davis and standout two-way guard Jrue Holiday running the show on both ends.

"We have more shooting, spread out the floor especially with Jrue, AD," Pelicans guard E'Twaun Moore said. "Those guys are going to be penetrating and drawing a lot of attention and making shots, and making it a lot easier for everyone on the floor."

Change is a companion for most franchises during the offseason. Championship-caliber teams adjust quickly to the alterations and waste little time getting their seasons off to roaring starts.

"I think everybody is going to go through growing pains," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "Obviously, Houston still has their team together; Golden State still has their team together. Those teams are very good teams but I think everybody is going to have some adjustments they have to make and obviously playing in the West is not easy, but playing in the East is not easy either if you look at the teams there, too."

Updated October 16, 2018

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