BEIJING — James Harden is quickly getting comfortable running his new coach’s offense.

Harden had 14 points and 8 assists in 24 minutes, leading the Houston Rockets to a 116-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in a preseason game Wednesday.

The Rockets beat the Pelicans twice in China behind Harden’s passing. He collected 15 assists in Sunday’s game in Shanghai. In Beijing, Harden greeted the crowd before the game with “Nin hao!” — Chinese for “hello!” — and looked at ease the rest of the game as the focal point of new coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.

“Very comfortable,” he told reporters afterward. “My role really doesn’t change. Just got the ball in my hands a little bit more.”

Houston built a 17-point lead after the first quarter and never relinquished it, though the Pelicans closed to within eight points in the fourth quarter.

The Pelicans played most of the game without star Anthony Davis, who suffered what the team called a right ankle sprain in the first quarter. Davis fell to the court holding his ankle after appearing to trip while attempting to drive to the basket against Houston’s Nene. After a timeout, he returned to the game briefly before heading to the locker room. Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore also left the game in the first half with a right heel contusion.

Ryan Anderson had 11 points and 7 rebounds and Sam Dekker came off the bench to score 14 points for the Rockets. Montrezl Harrell scored 11 points, blocked two shots and made a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Pelicans’ bench, after which he turned backward and smiled as he jogged back. Harrell missed his only three-point attempt during his rookie season but shot more threes during Summer League play this year.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, missed several shots near the basket and made just 7 of 24 three-pointers.

Four players scored in double figures off the bench: Quinn Cook had 20, Langston Galloway had 16 and Dante Cunningham and Cheick Diallo each had 12.

Cook added eight assists in 21 minutes.

“You could see it in practice,” Lance Stephenson said of Cook, who went undrafted last year out of Duke. “He took what he was doing in practice and turned it into the game.”


Two of China’s basketball luminaries got loud ovations: retired Rockets center Yao Ming, recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Stephon Marbury, the ex-NBA player who has gone onto stardom in the Chinese Basketball Association. Also sitting courtside were Hall of Famers Gary Payton, whose son Gary II had 1 point in 18 minutes for the Rockets, and Dikembe Mutombo, who was shown on the arena screens shaking his head and performing his signature finger wag.


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the game that he will resume discussions on the collective bargaining agreement soon after he returns from China, with two months left before a crucial deadline. Silver said he planned to hold meetings next week in an ongoing process that will eventually include several team owners, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, the players’ association president. Silver described all sides as “very engaged and eager to get a deal done.”


Rockets: Host Grizzlies on Saturday.

Pelicans: Visit Hawks on Tuesday.