NEW ORLEANS — Tyreke Evans and his New Orleans teammates took notice when they saw Houston coach Kevin McHale sub out his entire starting lineup early in the third quarter.
The Pelicans saw it as a chance to earn some extra rest of their own.
"We brought it in the huddle and just said, 'Keep putting the pressure on them, don't stop being aggressive,'" Evans recalled. "We did that. We got a big lead where we could sit down and rest."
Ryan Anderson scored 22 points, Evans added 21 and New Orleans routed the Rockets 111-83 on Friday night.
Dante Cunningham added 13 points for New Orleans, which led by as much as 32 in the second half.
Omer Asik grabbed 11 rebounds, and Anthony Davis accounted for three of the Pelicans' eight blocked shots.
"We made the right plays defensively and it led to easy points," Anderson said. "We just controlled the game for 48 minutes."
Dwight Howard scored 12 points and James Harden had 11 for Houston, all in the first half. None of Houston's starters scored in the third quarter.
"We didn't have any effort tonight, any concentration," McHale said. "We were terrible tonight. They came out and just kicked our tails up one side and down the other. We didn't come to play."
Howard said he had "no clue" when asked if McHale wanted to send a message by benching his starters early in the third quarter, or whether the coach sought to rest top players for Saturday night's home date against Miami with the game in New Orleans showing signs of getting out of hand.
When asked his opinion of the move, Howard said: "We've got to get ready for the next game."
Corey Brewer scored 12 points for the Rockets, and Donatas Motiejunas had 10.
Jimmer Fredette scored 10 points and sent a charge through the crowd with a fast-break lob to Austin Rivers for an alley-oop dunk that even brought Davis out of his seat on the bench.
New Orleans shot 53 percent (44 of 83). Houston missed its first five shots and wound up shooting 39.8 percent (35 of 88), including 20.7 percent (6 of 29) from 3-point range.
It was Houston's first game this season in which it never led.
Anderson's first 3 — also his fifth field goal on six shots — put the Pelicans up 38-22 early in the second quarter.
Anderson and Evans combined to hit 14 of 19 shots and score 32 points in the first half, helping the Pelicans to a 59-42 lead.
When the second half began, Josh Smith missed a 3, Trevor Ariza turned the ball over and then Patrick Beverly was called for a foul on Luke Babbitt, whose free throws put the Pelicans up by 23 just 1:31 into the period. That's when McHale yanked his starters.
Rockets: Officials had to call timeout in the first quarter when Motiejunas showed them a deep red scratch across the underside of his forearm. The Lithuanian 7-footer complained of the injury, which trainers covered with a bandage, shortly after being called for a foul while tangled up with Davis in the paint. ... During the eight minutes Howard played in the first quarter, he attempted only one shot, an alley-oop dunk of Motiejunas' lob.
Pelicans: The Pelicans' 28-point margin of victory was the largest in franchise history against the Rockets. ... The Pelicans are 11-1 when blocking seven or more shots. ... One of Anderson's three 3-pointers was ruled good when Howard was called for goaltending.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams was pleased with the Pelicans' dominant victory on the heels of a discouraging overtime loss at San Antonio two nights earlier, when his team lost a lead in the final second of regulation.
"To be able to play against a playoff team that's going to contend for a championship that way after what happened to us the other night says a ton about character and resiliency," Williams said. "Our guys came focused and flushed what happened the other day."
Rockets: Host Miami on Saturday.
Pelicans: Host Washington on Monday.