Minutes before the start of the game, it was announced Dante Cunningham would replace Tyreke Evans in the starting lineup. This was interesting considering the Pelicans had already been stronger defensively than offensively in 1st quarters this season: a 100.8 defensive rating (11th) vs. a 98.6 offensive rating (22nd).
Lo and behold, Monty Williams changed lineup saw the Pelicans jump out to a 9-0 advantage and then 13-4. They scored on all 6 of their first possessions. Tyreke Evans came into the game as the first substitution and Holiday immediately said hello with a three. At the 1:06 mark, Davis sat down with his 2nd foul, but the Pelicans didn't skip a beat in the final minute and expanded the lead to 12.
In the 2nd quarter, the offense got Luke Babbitt several open looks from deep but he missed them both. Consequently, Monty substituted Gordon for him rather quickly, but unfortunately shortly thereafter, coming out of a timeout, Gordon immediately turned it over. That was followed up with a terrible possession by Evans on a poor field goal attempt. At the 6:41 mark, the Grizzlies were down by just a point. The only points for the Pels were just a couple of Evans FT's.
Then, as if a light switch came on, the Pelicans scored 7 points in under a minute starting with a three from Anderson, after some excellent ball movement. The Grizzlies called timeout, down 8 with 5:35 to go in the first half.
The Pels continued to make shots, but a lot of them came off either quick pushes off good rebounds or turnovers. The best though was Jrue Holiday's steal with four seconds remaining as he ripped it from Conley, checked the time and scored a lay-up right before the buzzer sounded.
Outside of the first 5:19 of the 2nd quarter, the Pels outscored the Grizz 50 to 26 in the first half.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) January 10, 2015
Outside of this 6 minute stretch, the Pelicans overwhelmed the Grizzlies. They had an 11-4 fast break point advantage. A +4 three pointers made and +5 free throws made advantages. They had a 9 to 5 assist to turnover ratio while the Grizzlies had a ghastly 4 to 7 ratio! And as for the Tyreke-off-the-bench plan?
Jrue and Tyreke tonight 23 points 9 rebounds 6 assists 0 turnovers— David Fisher (@usnfish) January 10, 2015
With all the good news, it seemed inevitable to be wary of the 2nd half. After all, the Grizzlies were 25-10, the third best record in the Western Conference. Sure enough, the Pelicans started slowly, but they were able to get to the line 4 times to alleviate the early missed shots and turnovers.
Then with 8:10 remaining, Marc Gasol picked up his 4th foul after blatantly shoving Asik in the chest. Immediately thereafter, Davis slamed home a baseline drive on the other end, but the Grizzlies didn't go quietly into the night. Mike Conley and Gasol's replacement, Kosta Koufos, kept the Grizz afloat and they were down only 7 points at the 5:56 mark of the 3rd quarter.
After a timeout, the Pelicans recovered as Anderson and Gordon both hit a couple of quick three's. This became one of the themes on the night as the Pelicans ended up making 10 of their 20 three point attempts. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Pelicans saw their lead back to double digits, 82-71.
The final frame started with a bang as Anthony Davis slammed home a put-back off Anderson's miss. Yet, sandwiched between a bad Rivers' turnover, Carter and Udrih scored a quick four points and Monty wisely called a timeout. On the immediate possession, Anthony Davis attempted to take on a double team to no avail, but that allowed Anderson to get an easy tip in. The Grizzlies followed with a 24 second shot clock expiration.
With 3:28 remaining in the game, Tony Allen made a three to make it a nine point ballgame, but Davis came right back with an uncontested hoop at the rim. The Grizzlies never mounted a serious run as they were not able to stop the Pelicans enough. They even attempted to hide Zach Randolph on Cunningham while Tayshaun Prince guarded AD, but Joerger's plan of guarding Davis with a smaller forward didn't have it's desired effect for once.
- After a quiet first half, Anthony Davis took Zach Randolph to school in the second half. Davis was responsible for 8 of the Pelicans first 10 points after halftime, and it forced Joerger to try Tayshaun Prince on him not that long after that. This time it didn't work out for Memphis as Davis finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. The most interesting thing was that out of the Pelicans 6 first half blocks, Davis had none of them, but don't worry, he made up for that in second half with 3 rejections.
- Both Eric Gordon and Holiday got off to nice scoring starts with 7 and 5 respectively within the first 6 minutes of the game. While Gordon cooled (but not due to cold shooting), Holiday kept his pace for the game and finished with a game high 23 points. He also had 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 three's, 2 steals and 0 turnovers. With Evans starting on the bench, Holiday had the keys and it appeared he enjoyed starting the game with the ball in his hands. He got into a nice rhythm, and more importantly, he was engaged against Mike Conley throughout, besting the Grizzlies point guard by the end of the night on the stat sheet.
- For the first time in a long while, Tyreke Evans had a productive game as a reserve: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block and just 1 turnover. For how poorly Monty Williams' rotations performed in Charlotte, they did a 180 turn in this game. The offense never entered into a detrimental funk and Memphis couldn't keep up with New Orleans balanced scoring. Hat tip to Evans for taking one for the team:
Monty Williams said after talking to Tyreke Evans & Eric Gordon about synergy, Evans volunteered to come off bench for betterment of team— nakia hogan (@nakiahogan) January 10, 2015
- Dante Cunningham drew his first start and it was a great success. Prior to the start of the game, I feared the offense might be even more stagnant than usual with both Cunningham and Asik on the floor together. It never transpired. Rather, Cunningham filled the ever elusive glue guy role among the starters. Although he didn't score, he had three important blocks (all in the first half) and a number of timely offensive rebounds throughout.
- Omer Asik was on his way to perhaps his most efficient night as a Pelican, but foul trouble limited his minutes to 21 on the night.
- When Ryan Anderson makes 3 or more three's in a game, the Pelicans usually win (a 10-3 record). He made four of them tonight and also added 20 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist. For a nice change, he didn't attempt too many mid range shots.
For just the 16th time, the Grizzlies allowed an opponent to score 100 points or more. The Pelicans led wire-to-wire. Most importantly, tonight marked the 5th win for the Pelicans in the Southwest Division. They had won just 4 such games all of last season.
Despite the big win against a division rival, many fans were drawn to Adrian Wojnarowski twitter feed during the game.
Yahoo Sources: Boston, Memphis and New Orleans working framework of Green to Grizz, Pondexter to Pelicans, Prince/Salmons/pick to Celtics.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 10, 2015
In framework of proposed three-team trade, New Orleans' Russ Smith moves to Memphis, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 10, 2015
Stay tuned to The Bird Writes for further breaking news on this trade.
The Pelicans will go on a five game road trip in the Eastern Conference, starting with the Boston Celtics on Monday. The game will be shown on NBAtv.
The most important thing to watch will be how well the Pelicans starting lineup continues to play with Cunningham. Memphis was a perfect match-up for Monty to try this lineup as they play at a slow and deliberate pace. The real test will come with smaller and faster teams. For instance against Phoenix, I remember Cunningham being a hindrance because he wasn't able to stay in front of the smaller and quicker Suns players. Let's hope for the best but don't be too dismayed if it doesn't work out.