(AP) — The Charlotte Hornets should be in a good mood for their home opener.

The New Orleans Pelicans ought to arrive full of confidence as well.

The teams began the season with resounding victories, setting up a nice clash for Friday night in Charlotte, N.C.

The game marks the first regular-season home game for the Hornets since the return of coach Steve Clifford for his second go-around with the franchise.

Charlotte’s 129-102 clubbing of host San Antonio on Wednesday night marked the franchise’s largest margin of victory in a season opener.

“When we subbed and broke the lineup, there was no change,” Clifford said.

Part of that came because of third-year player Nick Richards’ career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.

“He knows who he is and he plays to his strengths. He doesn’t take any bad shots,” Clifford said. “He’s just doing what he can, so I think it’ll be exciting to see how he grows into this role.”

The visiting Pelicans rolled past the Brooklyn Nets 130-108 in their opener Wednesday night. Forward Zion Williamson, who often has been injured and missed the 2021-22 season, turned in a 25-point, nine-rebound outing for New Orleans along with Brandon Ingram’s 28-point effort.

Williamson said he was thrilled to be back in action after a long layoff.

“Simply playing the game I love,” he said. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”

The Pelicans are glad to have him back in top form.

“It’s like he didn’t miss a beat,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “Just throw the ball to him and watch what he does.”

The game in Charlotte will be a return to the scene of some of Williamson’s greatest college moments. As a Duke freshman, he boosted the Blue Devils to an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship in the Hornets’ home building. It’s a homecoming for the player who was groomed in nearby South Carolina as a youth, so he’ll be excited to show off his teammates as well.

“Our squad is deep,” Williamson said. “We all root for each other. I think that’s what makes us great.”

Williamson could encounter Richards, a center, in the lane as part of the matchups for Friday night.

Not all was rosy for the Hornets. They lost backcourt reserve Cody Martin to a quad injury in the first quarter Wednesday night and he didn’t return.

Charlotte already was without standout guard LaMelo Ball, who suffered an ankle sprain in the preseason and didn’t play Wednesday.

Despite an arrest on a weekend charge of DWI, James Bouknight played in the opener for the Hornets. That leaves open the likelihood that he’ll be in uniform for the first home game of the season.

Last year, the Hornets won their first three games.

The Pelicans didn’t win their second game last season until their 14th contest. Further, they’re going for their second road win — something that didn’t occur until Nov. 26 in the 2021-22 season.

In March, Charlotte beat the Pelicans twice in an 11-day span, with New Orleans having difficulty defending the Hornets’ 3-point shooting.

–Field Level Media