Pelicans short-handed in frontcourt against formidable Memphis bigs

by Jim Eichenhofer

MEMPHIS – New Orleans didn’t have Terrence Jones (thumb) or Dante Cunningham (personal) during Monday’s road win in Phoenix, but the Pelicans were able to win partly by minimizing the Suns’ damage on the backboards, being outrebounded just 43-37 overall. Repeating that feat without the services of either forward again Wednesday figures to be a bit more difficult, because the opposition is frontcourt-rich Memphis, which features the longtime duo of All-Star center Marc Gasol and power forward Zach Randolph.

Gasol has made several momentous crunch-time plays vs. New Orleans over the years, while Randolph has registered some monster games against the Pelicans, who’ve had difficulty preventing him from scoring his usual assortment of close-range hoops and putbacks. The Pelicans (22-34) had to adjust Monday in their 110-108 victory at Phoenix, moving Alexis Ajinca into the starting lineup (officially, Ajinca was listed as the power forward, with Anthony Davis at center). It’s possible the 7-foot-2 Ajinca will be needed again to contend with Memphis’ bigs, a group that also includes rising power forward JaMychal Green. Green tallied 21 points (on 9/12 shooting) vs. New Orleans in the Nov. 2 meeting between the Southwest Division clubs. Green was one of the only offensive bright spots in an 89-83 overtime Grizzlies victory that was lowlighted by 35.1 shooting by the winners (the Pelicans shot 37.0 percent).

“We are short-handed,” Alvin Gentry said of his team. “But we’ve got enough to start the game, and as long as we have enough to start the game, we can give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Other notes from pregame at FedEx Forum:

Gentry on the impact of the Monday return of E’Twaun Moore (15 points in his return from a two-game absence): “Just having E’Twaun back in the lineup, he’s been so good for us, as far as creating his own shot, making a play here and there, or making a big shot.” …

Memphis plays a low-possession game and is a very defensive-minded team, which prompted Gentry to say of deficits against the Grizzlies that “when you’re down 10 (points), it seems like 200.”

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