Houston's defense stifled the Golden State Warriors in last year's Western Conference finals, but they had no answers for Anthony Davis on Wednesday. The blossoming MVP favorite posted a monster stat line of 32 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists, and was a plus-22 in 39 minutes.
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had a clear game plan for how Davis would lead the offense from the post. The Rockets lead the league in switching last season, so Gentry repeatedly had his guards set off-ball screens to create mismatches for Davis to exploit.
Holiday wisely cleared out and dragged Capela to the perimeter once Davis established post position. That gave Davis a clear one-on-one opportunity against a wing player and he easily scored by going over the top.
Here's the play in its entirety:
The Pelicans also ran a variation of the same play by having Davis set the screen away from the ball instead of having him curl. The principle is the same - trigger a switch and exploit the mismatch.
Moore cuts up top to space the floor, which leaves Carter-Williams alone in the paint. Davis gets inside position and seals the smaller defender, which allows Payton to deliver an easy lob over the top.
Again, the result is an easy bucket for Davis:
When the Rockets went to Plan B, trying to force the ball out of Davis' hands, he repeatedly found open teammates cutting to the basket.
Houston threw a poorly-executed zone at Davis and he easily beat it:
The Rockets tried surprising Davis with a double team, but he managed to find a cutting Nikola Mirotic for an easy layup:
Eventually, Houston got so scrambled that all five defenders were caught staring at Davis, leaving Holiday to cut backdoor:
Houston conceded 131 points at home on opening night - more than they allowed in regulation in any game last season. Davis' brilliance, coupled with monstrous showings by both Mirotic (30 points) and Julius Randle (25 points), exposed the Rockets' vulnerability on the interior. Other teams with skilled bigs (the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins for this very reason) will surely try the same game plan going forward.
- With h/t to Jared Dubin