Derrick Favors and Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas battle for the ball

Pelicans shootaround update: Without a doubt, Grizzlies matchup is ‘big game’

by Jim Eichenhofer

Derrick Favors called it a “big game” three separate times over a three-minute span after Monday’s shootaround. Fellow New Orleans veteran JJ Redick described this evening’s matchup vs. Memphis as “huge.”

Hours before tip-off of the third meeting of 2019-20 between the Pelicans and Grizzlies, there was no avoiding the fact that the outcome will be monumental for both clubs, but particularly for New Orleans (28-38). After an 0-2 start in seeding games, the Pelicans have almost no wiggle room the rest of the way, perhaps needing to reel off six consecutive victories to qualify for the Aug. 15-16 play-in round. A loss Monday would push New Orleans to 4.5 games behind Memphis, while also digging an even deeper hole behind ninth-place San Antonio and 10th-place Portland.

“It’s a big game for us,” Favors said of facing 32-36 Memphis. “We all want to be in the playoffs and we’re trying to make the playoffs. It’s probably going to be a high-intensity game from both teams. Plus we have to play a lot better than we did last game. It’s a very important game for both teams. We’re going to come out ready.”

“We’ve just got to win,” Redick said. “If we take care of business on our end, then we feel like we’ll be in a position to be in the play-in game. Whatever that looks like. But we have to take care of our business, which is basically winning out.”

New Orleans will try to bounce back from Saturday’s 23-point loss to the LA Clippers, which was actually not even as close as the final score, due to the Pelicans slicing into the deficit in fourth-quarter mop-up time.

“Any time you get your butt kicked, it’s always a little disheartening in the locker room afterward,” Redick said of Saturday’s defeat. “But we’re an optimistic group. We still feel like we can win the rest of the games. Tonight is huge obviously. We just have to take care of business tonight.”

Other notes after shootaround:

Redick on Memphis rookie guard Ja Morant and the Grizzlies: “I’ve seen a lot of greatness. He’s an exciting player. I’ve been impressed with his feel for the game. Obviously he’s an explosive athlete, but he really is great with changing of pace – he doesn’t play at one speed. His vision, his court awareness – we get sort of enamored with his athleticism – but he can just flat-out play basketball and is a really smart player. Him and (Jaren Jackson Jr.) and Dillon Brooks, they have such a good young core of guys. They’ve given that organization a lot of promise and hope for the future.” …

Asked for what the Pelicans’ experienced players have told younger teammates about responding to adversity, Favors replied, “We’ve been through it. We know what it takes, we know what we need to do. We know this game means a lot. We need it. The sense of urgency is there.” …

Believe it or not, Saturday was not even close to the Pelicans’ worst loss of 2019-20 based on final margin. There was a memorable – or forgettable, if you prefer – 46-point defeat at Dallas on Dec. 3, part of the team’s 13-game losing streak. However, on the heels of that lengthy losing skid, New Orleans turned its season around and went 21-13 after a 7-23 overall start.

“A few of us were talking about that Dallas loss,” Redick recalled. “That was the first time in my career I’ve been down 50 (points). One of the impressive things about our group has been our chemistry and cohesiveness. This is a drama-free group. At no point in time during the season, even when we were losing 13 games in a row, did we point fingers or place blame on anybody. This is a group that’s had each other’s back all year. That’s my expectation going forward. We’re going to make the most out of these six games.”

New Orleans Pelicans center Derrick Favors post-practice...
August 03, 2020
New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick post-practice interview...
August 03, 2020

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