This matchup appears likely to go down to the wire.
Predict the Pelicans outcome against the Houston Rockets in the opener. (Squeaker win, blowout loss, a nail-biter that winds up a heartbreaker, etc.)
Jason: Nail-biter loss
Drawing the Rockets on opening day will probably result in a tough start to the season, but I hope that the Pelicans won’t let it get to them. I think it will be an exciting game, but ultimately a loss for the Pelicans. Let’s say Rockets 126, Pelicans 124.
Kevin: Nail-biter win
I think this winds up a nail-biter, but I believe the Pelicans get the upset because they will have Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker in foul trouble all game. Houston will not be able to score in the paint consistently with Capela on the bench and Carmelo Anthony will try to do too much in his minutes — which goes wrong for the Rockets.
Chris: Nail-biter loss
I have a nail biting finish in which the Pelicans come out firing on all cylinders against H-Town. They’ll be lots to grin and smile about for New Orleans fans, but the MVP James Harden and Chris Paul will ultimately get the last laugh at home. Thinking ahead, I think NOLA can at worst split with Houston this season for several reasons, but in this first matchup, it’s hard to bet against The Beard and company as visitors. Rocket 119, Pelicans 112.
Jamile: Nail-biter win
I actually love how this year’s Pelicans match up with the Houston Rockets. The departure of Trevor Ariza gives Houston one less perimeter defender to bother Jrue Holiday. Neither James Harden or Chris Paul are a real threat to Holiday defensively. Up front, New Orleans literally has a huge advantage. Houston loves to play the under sized P.J. Tucker at power forward and center for stretches of the game. This allows Houston to switch on defense while still having a tough rebounder inside. It’s a nice strategy, but it simply won’t work against bigs like Anthony Davis and Julius Randle.
If Gentry can find ways to exploit the teams advantage inside while limiting open three point looks, New Orleans should pull the upset. I think the Pelicans put the defensive questions to rest and start the 2018-2019 campaign on a positive note.
Preston: Easy loss
A defense can not come together overnight. These Pelicans are not the Golden State Warriors. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday will fill up the stat sheets, and with the frenetic pace New Orleans promises to run, every member of the starting unit will score ten or more points. However, it simply won’t be enough to stop the reigning MVP and former Hornet, Chris Paul. Rockets 132, Pelicans 118.
Charlie: Nail-biter loss
Houston will be a war. The Rockets’ Iso Ball will be electric versus the Pelicans’ pace race and it will result in huge games from all of the stars. I believe Houston will pick up the close win though, especially considering the refs will still be adjusting to new rules and give Houston an even greater advantage from the foul line.
This isn’t to say I would be surprised to see New Orleans pick up the win, but they’ll have to show an immediate sense of urgency that’s been lacking since the playoffs back in May. Can a team flip a switch like that?
Oleh: Nail-biter win
I simply refuse to believe this Rockets team is as good as last year’s version. Ryan Anderson for Carmelo Anthony is close to a wash, but replacing the minutes of Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Johnson with James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams and Marquese Chriss doesn’t seem to bode well. Then when you consider Anthony Davis should shut down Clint Capela — a dominant performance would quickly back up all the talk of being the best player in the league — and Jrue Holiday will make life hard on the Rockets All-Star backcourt, the Pelicans can steal the upset if the shooting, defense and smarts are up to snuff. Pelicans 116, Rockets 111.
Travis: Easy loss
The Pels just don’t match up well with the Rockets, so I’ll say Houston will emerge with a 132-119 victory. We probably fall behind early but remain within striking distance before Houston asserts itself.