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Pelicans aim to build on solid opener vs. Kings

The New Orleans Pelicans had perhaps the most impressive opening-night performance of any team in the NBA.

But the 131-112 victory on Houston on Wednesday night isn't likely to lessen their focus on the opponent in their home opener Friday night.

That's because the Sacramento Kings won both meetings in the Smoothie King Center last season.

The Kings beat the Pelicans, 116-109 in overtime and 114-101, in New Orleans last season, though the Pelicans prevailed in both games in Sacramento, 114-106 and 114-101.

"We've talked about that," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Thursday. "They're a good, young team that's very athletic. They're playing with a lot of young guys who are trying to establish themselves in the league. Because of that they feel like they can go in and beat anybody at any time.

"They had some great wins last year, not just against us but also against Golden State and some other teams. We have to come out and play as hard and maybe even harder than we did (against Houston). That's just the way the NBA is."

The Pelicans opened eyes with the lopsided margin in the opener, leading the Rockets, who had the league's best record last season, by as many as 29 points.

New Orleans had six players score in double figures. Anthony Davis had 32 points and 16 rebounds, Nikola Mirotic had 30 points and 10 rebounds, Julius Randle had 25, E'Twaun Moore scored 21, Jrue Holiday 10 and Elfrid Payton had a triple-double in his Pelicans debut, finishing with 10 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

"Last night went really well but we're still growing and still learning," said Payton, who left Phoenix to sign with New Orleans as a free agent in the offseason. "There's a lot of talent on this team, a lot of guys that can shoot, a lot of guys that can post up, that can cause double teams. We've just got a lot of playmakers."

Sacramento, 27-55 a year ago, got off to an encouraging start even though it lost at home to Utah, 123-117, in its season opener Wednesday.

"It was a good effort," Kings coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. "Guys competed, attacked -- we had 34 points in the first quarter, got off to a quick start. ...

"I can't fault our effort whatsoever. We scored 117 points on the No. 1 defense in the league."

Willie Cauley-Stein led Sacramento with 23 points and seven rebounds, De'Aaron Fox had 21 points and seven assists and former Pelican Buddy Hield had 19 points and six rebounds.

The Kings had a 16-point first-quarter lead before faltering. They gave up 59 points during a 16-minute stretch of the first half.

"There were a couple spots where we got stagnant and that's when they made their runs," Cauley-Stein told the Bee, "which is going to happen when you have a young team like this, especially when we put our second group in."

Updated October 18, 2018

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