Pregame report: Grizzlies at Pelicans
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
News and updates from the Smoothie King Center prior to Wednesday's Southwest Division game between Memphis and New Orleans:
• Pelicans Coach Monty Williams on the pros and cons of the revamped starting lineup that includes Tyreke Evans: “It’s not a lineup that I’m comfortable with, just because we’re so undersized. If you look at the defense from that lineup, it’s not that great, but we’ve been able to score the ball. It’s good to see the positive part of it, which is the scoring. When you have undersized guys – Brian Roberts at point guard, Eric (Gordon at shooting guard), Tyreke at small forward – the best defenses are able to switch. We don’t have that capability, because when those guys are in the lineup, you’re giving up more rebounds. (Anthony Davis), Greg (Stiemsma), Alexis (Ajinca), Jeff (Withey) and Al-Farouq (Aminu) have to do so much to help our defense, and I think that’s a lot of pressure on those guys. It’s not a great defensive lineup. We have to be sound in our system, and we have gotten better at that with this group. But I can’t reiterate enough that it’s a group that we have to be really good as a team (defensively).”
• Williams on New Orleans’ defense if Jrue Holiday was healthy: “Jrue is certainly a guy that helps your defense. AD’s gotten better this year, and that’s a great tag team for us. (But) we’ve had trouble (facing individual scorers). Al Jefferson goes for 30, Nene goes for 30, Goran Dragic goes for 40. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘We could be better on the ball and guarding guys who just get it done off the dribble.’ But that doesn’t take away from the way our guys have stepped us a team lately. That’s where we have to get better – our system cuts down on those guys who can go for a great night.”
• A win would give the Pelicans 27 wins, matching their output from last season, with 18 games still remaining after tonight. Williams said the team did not target a certain number of victories entering the season. “I think you’ve got to play it out,” he said. “Your talent and preparation usually get you where you want to go. I never want to put a limit on what we can do.”
• Williams on reasons behind the winning streak: “I think it’s a number of things. We’ve gotten contributions from our bench. Our defense has stepped up in timely moments – the second half (Sunday) it was really good for us. To win games, we have to continue that.”
• What’s at stake for the Grizzlies (37-26): After a slow start, in large part due to the extended injury absence of Marc Gasol, Memphis has fought all the way up to seventh place in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies are vying with eighth-place Dallas (38-27) and ninth-place Phoenix (36-27) for two of the last three playoff spots. Memphis is 27-13 when Gasol plays this season.
• What’s at stake for the Pelicans (26-37): A victory would give New Orleans an impressive 4-0 sweep this season over division rival Memphis, as well as mean the first four-game winning streak of 2013-14 for the Pelicans. NOLA is 15-14 at home this season and still has five more home games left (12) than road contests (7).