NEW YORK (AP) — The Nets piled on the points in the first half like never before in Brooklyn, and it turned out they needed almost all of them.
Anthony Davis was that tough to stop in a monstrous return to the lineup.
D’Angelo Russell had 22 points and 13 assists, and the Nets built up a big enough lead with a 73-point first half to hold off Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, 126-121 on Wednesday night.
Davis finished with 34 points and a career-high 26 rebounds after a one-game absence, but there weren’t enough rebounds to get in the first half, when the Nets opened a 24-point lead during their highest-scoring first half at home in 17 years.
“Man, when you got a guy like Anthony Davis down there, it’s tough for us on the defensive end, it’s tough for us on the offensive end,” Russell said. “You’ve just got to keep playing next play at a time mentality and just being aggressive on all cylinders.”
Joe Harris added 21 points for the Nets, who had 105 points through three quarters, then got consecutive baskets by Harris when New Orleans trimmed the lead down to seven with under 5 minutes remaining.
The Nets made nine of their first 15 3-point attempts during their highest-scoring first half at home since getting 75 against Golden State on Feb. 19, 2002, back in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Davis said the Pelicans’ first-half defense was lazy.
“The whole first half they did whatever they wanted,” he said. “They didn’t feel us on the defensive end.”
Despite playing without injured Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Allen Crabbe, the Nets won for the seventh time in their last eight home games. They finished with seven players in double figures, with DeMarre Carroll (19) and Spencer Dinwiddie (18) leading a bench effort that had a whopping 55-5 advantage over the New Orleans reserves.
“Losing Caris and Allen Crabbe and Rondae, I just think we’re a deeper squad and we’re a better squad. But we have a tough road ahead here, especially short-handed,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “If we can weather the storm I think until we’re fully healthy, maybe we can do something important.”
Elfrid Payton scored 25 points for New Orleans in his second game back after missing more than a month with a broken finger. Julius Randle had 21 and Jrue Holiday 20, but the Pelicans got next to nothing from their bench.
The Nets were ahead 39-29 after one and scored the first seven of the second quarter, going ahead 46-29 on Carroll’s 3-pointer. He added another almost two minutes later for a 20-point bulge, and the lead grew to 24 points later in the quarter. The Pelicans rallied with 12 straight points to cut the lead in half, and Brooklyn was ahead 73-58 at the break.
Brooklyn led by 18 after three before New Orleans closed within five after a late flurry.
“We got behind and you’re playing uphill,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We know this story. We’ve seen this story before.”
Pelicans: Gentry said Davis’ absence in their victory over Minnesota on Monday came after the All-Star forward caught an illness from his young daughter. … Davis’ previous career best was 22 rebounds.
Nets: Brooklyn’s reserves outscored New Orleans’ 39-5 in the first half. … The Nets are 6-1 in their first game of the new year since moving to Brooklyn in 2012.
Crabbe will be out at least another week because of his sore right knee. Atkinson said last week that Crabbe was nearing a return but the team announced Wednesday that Crabbe’s bruised fat pad, which caused the soreness, needed additional recovery time. Crabbe will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days. He missed his 10th straight game Wednesday.
The Nets waived forward/center Alan Williams, who had been playing on a two-way contract. Williams was averaging 21 points and a league-leading 14.7 rebounds for the Long Island Nets but didn’t appear in a game for Brooklyn.
Atkinson said Williams had an excellent opportunity elsewhere so the Nets cut him so he could pursue that.