Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 95, Grizzlies 92
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
MEMPHIS – The New Orleans Pelicans entered Monday’s afternoon game at Memphis with barely enough players to hold a five-on-five intrasquad game. With injuries and illness combining to further reduce the team’s roster, Monty Williams only had 10 healthy players in uniform against the red-hot Grizzlies. The Pelicans needed all 10 to come away with a hard-fought victory.
Behind big fourth-quarter contributions from Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis and its five-man bench, New Orleans (16-24) won for the third time in as many tries this season against Memphis, which entered the holiday matchup riding a five-game winning streak. Evans scored 11 of his 15 points in the final period, while Davis scored six in the fourth and 21 in the second half, posting a game-best 27 points.
Just as important, with the Pelicans needing virtually everyone available to make a contribution of some kind, the New Orleans bench held a 38-18 scoring advantage over Memphis, a Western Conference finalist in 2013. In addition to Evans’ 15-point output, Alexis Ajinca and Austin Rivers added 10 and nine points, respectively.
“It just feels good to get a win,” Williams said of the Pelicans halting an eight-game losing streak. “You can’t get wins like this if you don’t have big-time character and tough guys in your locker room.”
Like several of New Orleans’ recent games, the Pelicans again held the upper hand on the scoreboard for most of the contest. Memphis played from behind the majority of Monday’s Southwest Division tilt and never led by more than five points. The Grizzlies (20-20) were up 69-68 through three quarters, but the Pelicans won the final period 27-23.
Davis sank the biggest basket of the game with 35 seconds remaining, a mid-range jumper that beat the shot-clock buzzer and gave New Orleans a 95-91 edge. After Marc Gasol made a free throw to cut it to 95-92, the Pelicans inbounded with 28.9 seconds left. The Grizzlies opted not to foul due to the game/shot clock differential, but the Pelicans’ Eric Gordon was the hard-earned winner of a scramble for a crucial rebound off teammate Brian Roberts’ missed jumper, allowing NOLA to dribble out the final three seconds.
The Pelicans improved to 3-0 against the Grizzlies, but this was by far the most difficult victory of the three matchups. The starting backcourt of Roberts and Gordon combined to score 25 points, joining Davis, Evans and Ajinca in double figures. Defensively, Davis blocked four shots, while starting center Greg Stiemsma and backup pivot Jeff Withey swatted two apiece. The eight New Orleans rejections helped limit Memphis to just 41.9 percent shooting.
“Everybody contributed, all the way down to the 10th guy,” Davis said. “Jeff came in and had big rebounds, and knocked down two big free throws (in the fourth quarter). That’s what we’re going to need while our guys are down (due to injury).”
“There are going to be times when guys have huge nights,” said Gordon, who had one last week by piling up 35 points in a tight loss to Houston. “But we need to have a lot of guys get involved and stay on the task at hand. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance to win. We’ve had a tough time this past month. We knew we were getting close to winning games; we just had to figure it out. It feels good to get this win.”
The Pelicans returned home immediately after the game and will host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday in the second game of a back-to-back. New Orleans will try to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 27.
“The biggest thing is we have to remember how we played tonight, and be even better tomorrow,” Williams said.