NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had just accomplished something that hadn’t been done in an NBA season opener in nearly 30 years — putting up a monster stat line of 26 points, 17 rebounds and a career-tying nine blocks in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 101-84 demolition of the Orlando Magic Tuesday night.
But the third-year superstar-in-the-making wasn’t about to take the bait. He had just beaten the Magic into submission, and now he was beating himself up.
“We missed a ton of easy baskets around the rim, and things like that have to fall for us,” said Davis, one of the stars of the U.S. team that won the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. “I take a lot of pride in my free throws. Coach is always telling me, ‘Don’t get down on yourself.’ But we’ve got to shoot way better from the line in case we have close games.”
The negatives for the Pelicans were obvious: They shot just 40.6 percent from the field (41 of 101), 23.5 percent from the 3-point line (4 of 17) and 48.4 percent from the foul line (15 of 31).
But with Davis and newly acquired center Omer Asik each grabbing 17 rebounds — including 16 on the offensive glass — the Pelicans outscored the Magic 32-19 on second-chance points and held a 64-48 edge in points in the paint.
“I glanced at the stat sheet, and to see us hold a team to 40 percent (shooting) and for us to lose by double digits is pretty tough to fathom,” said Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn. “Give them credit for their aggressiveness, the physicality that they play with. It stares you in the face. That was the difference in the game.”
The Pelicans used an 11-0 explosion in the final 67 seconds of the third quarter to break open a close game. Davis got the run started with a 16-footer, and then in the last 45 seconds, forward Ryan Anderson buried three consecutive 3-pointers to give the Pelicans a 78-64 lead.
It was an emotional affirmation for Anderson, who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, because he had missed the last 10 months after undergoing surgery for a herniated disc — the same type of surgery Peyton Manning underwent two years ago.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Anderson’s performance gave him an appreciation for the rehabilitation work Anderson had put in.
“I thought it was good for us and good for Ryan,” Williams said. “It was almost like a statement was made that he was back, because he has the ability to change the game with his shooting and rebounding. He does so much for our team. He had seven offensive rebounds — how many guys can actually do that and knock down 3s?”
Anderson pressed early, missing nine of his first 12 shots, but he caught fire in the second half.
“That’s a group effort,” Anderson said. “That’s what this team can do. Obviously, Austin (Rivers) did a great job finding me, and Anthony’s running the floor and taking a lot of attention away. It’s not like I’m creating those shots, guys are creating them for me. We want to be fast-paced.”
The Magic got strong performances from forward Tobias Harris, who had 25 points and eight rebounds before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, and from center Nikola Vucevic, who had 15 points and 23 rebounds.
“To win on the road, you pretty much have to be almost perfect,” Harris said.
The Magic could not withstand the Pelicans withering inside presence and defensive strength. In addition to Davis’ nine blocks, Asik blocked five shots, which contributed to Orlando’s 38 percent shooting.
Vaughn said his team could not match Davis’ athleticism and running ability.
“He’s a star in the making,” Vaughn said. “I think his passion for the game — whether it’s getting offensive rebounds or whether it’s running the floor and not getting the basketball but putting pressure on the defense — overall he plays a winning game of basketball.”
Davis said what he particularly liked about the victory was the Pelicans’ defensive effort.
“It was definitely good holding them to 84 points,” Davis said. “That’s our goal. We’re going to look at the film tomorrow, but even during the game, we realized what was going wrong. That just shows you how close we are. We’re not afraid to get on each other.”
The scary thing is, the Pelicans won.
NOTES: Pelicans rookie PG Russ Smith and rookie F Patric Young were inactive for the season opener. Smith, out of Louisville, had an impressive preseason but is nursing a sprained left thumb. … Pelicans coach Monty Williams said his team’s style this season will be “relentless. We want to have a relentless attitude every single night.” … The Magic went without F/C Channing Frye, who sprained the MCL in his left knee on Oct. 2 and did not play during the preseason. G Victor Oladipo is out with a facial fracture. … Oladipo’s injury put the spotlight on Orlando’s first-round pick, G Elfrid Payton, a New Orleans-area native who shined at Louisiana-Lafayette. “I want to see what he can handle,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “That’s not to say whatever lineup I start out with is going to be with us for the entire year — we’re not whole. We’ve thrown different things at him and he’s responded pretty well.”
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