On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Pelicans began as they typically do, quickly rushing out to small lead and building upon it throughout the first quarter. Despite Anthony Davis (soon-to-be All-Star if that system makes any sense) having an ice cold first half, New Orleans was able to build their lead with the strong play of Brian Roberts. Roberts made two three pointers in the first quarter and assisted on Gordon's only long range bomb in the frame. Memphis and New Orleans, although being 29th and 30th in 3PAr (three point attempt rate), made an astonishing six in the first twelve minutes.
Tyreke Evans started relatively inefficiently scoring the basketball, going 1-6, but he was still effective. He scored or assisted (Evans had 4 assists in the first half alone) on the first seven points of the second quarter to avoid the typical bench unit lull the Pelicans have become infamous for this season (when Ryan Anderson has been sidelined). Makes by Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers (3-4 for 7 points in 10 minutes in the first half) increased the lead to ten points with 5:13 remaining in the half. Then the typical winter gloom arrived for the Pelicans. New Orleans ended the quarter going 2-8 from the field, while Memphis went on a 14-5 run to bring the game to within one going to the locker rooms.
The third quarter was back and forth throughout as the largest lead for either team was five points. However, it was a splendid show from both Zach Randolph and Anthony Davis. Randolph was a bully underneath the basket compiling 17 points and 7 rebounds in the quarter. Not to be outdone, Davis responded with eight straight points to end the quarter (15 total) and Memphis narrowly led 69-68 going into the fourth quarter.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was played to a draw as Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey and Darius Miller found a way to avoid the bench doldrums. Anthony Davis, after a quick rest, entered the game with 8:52 when the score was knotted at 74. Surprisingly (considering the results of the eight game losing streak), the Pelicans went on an 11-2 run and surged to a nine point lead by relentlessly attacking the basket to score on five consecutive possessions. Evans did the most damage while Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers also contributed.
Coming out of the under 6:00 media timeout, Memphis attempted to make their run. While the Pelicans missed a few layups, Anthony Davis would not be denied, scoring two critical baskets to maintain the Pelican lead on life support. Down the stretch, New Orleans continued to attack the basket and Fox Sports New Orleans Analyst David Wesley Sr. mentioned that the missed layups by Evans and Davis in the last four minutes were still good possessions.
After Courtney Lee brought the lead down to two points with a minute remaining, the Pelicans opted not to call a timeout and isolated Evans near half court. He drove down the right side of the lane but a path to the basket was unavailable. Thankfully the stress that penetration caused on the defense, opened Anthony Davis on the right baseline for an open 15 footer which he confidently drained. Out of the following Grizzlies timeout, they got an open Michael Conley Jr. three point shot, which was just off, and Eric Gordon came away with the rebound but Greg Stiemsma had one more present for Oleh. He had held Marc Gasol's left arm (which Gasol sold well as one would expect from a veteran) and, with Memphis in the bonus, the Big Spainard headed to line to try to cut the lead back to two points.
Thankfully, he missed his second attempt, Brian Roberts found Evans quickly to get the ball across half court, and Reke called a timeout before Memphis could foul. Curiously, coming out of the timeout, with only a six second differential between the shot and game clock, Memphis head coach David Joerger elected not to foul. Roberts did what he does best -- dribbled around for 17 seconds, -- before missing a long, challenged two point jump shot. Eric Gordon (!) corralled the rebound and the clock ran out before Memphis could foul, securing the Pelicans third win in three tries against Memphis.
- Anthony Davis went 4-15 from the field in the first 33:30 of the game. He ended it 5-7. He absolutely stuffed the stat sheet by the conclusion of the game: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks.
- Tyreke Evans was ice cold in the first half but still manufactured points for others. He ended the game with 15 points and 7 assists to go with only 1 turnover. His +14 helps demonstrate his effectiveness despite a lackluster box score.
- Alexis Ajinca avoided foul trouble and posted 10 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. Jeff Withey played decently in 14 minutes adding a couple of free throws and blocks. Of course, once again, Stiemsma was the least effective center.
The Pels will hop on a plane right back to New Orleans tonight. Their next game is tomorrow in the New Orleans Arena against the Sacramento Kings. The Grizzlies will visit New Orleans for the fourth game in the season series on March 12th. The Pelicans have already won the season series for the first time since 2008-2009.