There was some joy entering this game. Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole returned into the rotation and were restricted for 25 minutes. It allowed the Pelicans to have someone who can drive to the basket and finish through contact and another guard who can space the floor. Things looked fun heading in and after injuries hampering what was supposed to be a great season for New Orleans were in the rear view mirror.
And they began with some fun! Tyreke Evans played well on the offensive end, attacking Memphis' defense and directing the show, finding several teammates for some assists. Jrue Holiday attacked Mike Conley early and got to assume the role of floor spacer with a couple threes and Ryan Anderson appeared to be the biggest benefactor from Evans' return. The Pelicans started out well in the first quarter, putting Memphis on its heels with a 38-point first quarter.
But things changed. Fast. Ryan Anderson was subbed out, Omer Asik was subbed in and the offense just looked slower. Not to blame Asik for all of the woes, as Ajinca, who picked up three fouls in the first six minutes of action, didn't look much better. That offensive flash slowed down and shots became harder and harder to come by. On the other end, Marc Gasol was cooking. Asik, Ajinca and Anthony Davis were all members of Gasol's torture chamber tonight as Big Spain went off tonight scored 22 points in the first half, en route to a monster performance.
It was best to describe Memphis' offense as a thousand paper cuts, slowly but surely slicing through New Orleans' lead heading into halftime. Big Spain led the charge in this quarter with 14 points, but Mario Chalmers (five points, three assists), Matt Barnes (five points) and Courtney Lee (seven points) all contributed too. As I looked up, Memphis cut New Orleans' lead to just one point heading into the half with their best player cooking and the ancillary players heating up.
I don't want to go too in depth here, so I'll say this: Memphis got the job done. Looking from a New Orleans' perspective, this was a game for them to get back on the right track. Get back your key players, get a victory and use it as a springboard to a successful rest of the season. For Memphis? This was a game where you come in and do your job. A "we're not losing to them" game. Marc Gasol led the charge and got Memphis a victory.
I'll have a bit more on this game in awhile including some things I noticed and thought were interesting moving forward.