The New Orleans Pelicans had their losing streak extend to three games and record fall to 4-14 with a 113-104 defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. In his first game of the 2015-16 regular season, Tyreke Evans led the Pelicans with 20 points and added 10 assists and five rebounds to that total.
There were several small things to look at in tonight's game. The Pelicans took one step further to full strength as Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole returned. Alexis Ajinca was plugged into the starting lineup and Eric Gordon was sent to the bench. And for the first 12 minutes of the night, the Pelicans looked great. 38 points in the first quarter and the offense was humming.
Tyreke Evans looked good coming back from injury, exploding to the rim and creating shots at the rim and creating offense. Jrue Holiday, moved off the ball, was allowed to look for his shots, resulting in a solid performance and Alexis Ajinca played four minutes and knocked down two shots. I would call that a job well done. It was good to see New Orleans' offense score 38 in the first, but it was even better to see it with Davis scoring just one point.
The rest of the game truly belonged to Marc Gasol.
Gasol put New Orleans' big men into his torture chamber. Gasol finished with 38 points, but it started with an excellent second quarter where he scored 14 points. It was the beginning of Gasol percolating - scoring over Omer Asik and Ajinca with ease, then pulling them outside and scoring over them. Combine that with some good defense on Davis and Gasol was simply brilliant tonight.
It was also a good night for some of Memphis' ancillary players. Mario Chalmers did a great job, picking up the slack from a lackluster Mike Conley game. Chalmers, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, didn't space the floor, but he hit all four of his shots and pestered both Cole and Evans on the defensive end.
What was more interesting - The Grizzlies took 10 threes all game. Simply amazing. They only made two of them, but the interesting part of it, at least for me, was how the game evolved to the point where it's a necessity to shoot from beyond the arc. The Pelicans took enough for both teams with 27 threes, but Memphis' lack of long-range shooting stood out, more so because of watching teams like Golden State, Portland and Houston look to shoot as many as they can.
And what I feared even more, Courtney Lee and Matt Barnes played well, giving Memphis other offensive conductors. Lee had a decent game with 13 points and four rebounds while Barnes had 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Barnes also played a bit of defense on Evans, stifling the offense for a bit in the third and fourth quarters. Both came off the bench along with Chalmers and gave the Grizzlies solid two-way performances.
Overall, the Grizzlies outrebounded New Orleans 49-37 and just played tougher than the Pelicans. Zach Randolph and his half-inch jump on offensive rebounds, Marc Gasol battling for rebounds, the stifling defense after the first quarter, it was too much for the Pelicans. From the second quarter on, the Pelicans shot 34.4 percent. For all the talk of the Grit-and-Grind being dead, it was alive and well for two hours in Louisiana.
Three losses after three wins. Let's talk notes.
Anthony Davis had 17 points, 14 rebounds, nine blocks, two assists and two steals. Why didn't I lead with this? He just felt invisible. I hate the term "empty stats," but if you watched the game, he didn't look like he was on the verge of a triple-double at any point. He shot 4-15, with some contested jumpers and tough finishes at the rim. Wasn't his night, but the fact he came away a block away from the triple double says a lot.
Hey, this team looked really good with Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis together. Offensively, it looked incredible. Looked great out there and with Evans out there, it was nearly unstoppable in the first half. We had some nice pick and roll plays with Evans and Davis and we had a few plays were Evans hit Anderson as he was coming off some screens. It's good because that's really good. It's bad because you just invested some contracts at the center position. Asik and Ajinca will be needed, but I would like to see a bit more AD/RA.
Norris Cole in his first game back - 3/12 shooting, 11 points, two assists, -10. It will take time, but if I'm curious to see how they balance the Eric Gordon/Norris Cole/Ish Smith trio if they don't start any of them. Is Cole the best defender of the bunch? Don't know, but Gordon is the best shooter and Ish Smith is the best distributor. Curious if they ever decide to play all three together at some point.
Man, I can't wait to see Pondexter come back. Just kept wondering if the Pelicans should go get a small forward before remembering they have a decent 3-and-D wing on the mend. Him taking that starting role and leaving Gee to be an energy guy in the second unit will help.
What to do with Omer Asik? 0 points in 5:14 of game action, but a -10. I know Gasol was working in the second half, but it's just not looking good for Asik so far. Ajinca had four fouls at the end but also 10 points on 5-6 shooting. If only the Pelicans can potara fuse both of them together to form one, good two-way center.