Sometimes the coach's message can be taken too literally. Turnovers had ticked up dramatically over the past week as "share the ball" had turned into players passing up quality scoring opportunities in an effort to force passes into impossible spaces. At halftime Jen Hale noted that the Pelicans emphasized making the smart play instead of always looking to pass.
I was once that player. I can remember, vividly, my high school coach telling me to "be a scorer" when I got into the paint instead of trying for the prettiest highlight pass available. Every basket is not going to be a highlight, getting into the lane needs to turn into points. I struggled to take heed of those words. Not so for our Pelicans.
Second Half Revival
Trailing 50-38 out of the locker room Tyreke Evans attacked the basket like a man possessed. A pretty spin move off Marc Gasol's back got things started. Two more layups and two more threes would follow as Evans led all scorers with 12 points and 4 assists while playing every second of the frame. He had help from Anthony Davis, who found the range on his jumper, canning three jumpers after struggling to find the range in the first half.
None of this matters without the defense. That defense was suffocating.
Memphis shot 4-13 in the third quarter. Their first made basket from the field did not take place until over eight minutes had elapsed. The Grizzlies actually committed more turnovers (5) in the quarter than their number of made baskets. Anthony Davis, a thorn in Zach Randolph's side all night, had 3 blocks in just the third quarter.
Only the gracious assistance of the officials (hey Danny Crawford, don't miss you) kept the onslaught from turning into an avalanche. The Grizzlies found their way to the free throw line 10 times in the quarter and 29 times overall; a far cry from the Pelicans 13 attempts. That even includes three separate intentional fouls in the final 26 seconds! Despite this, New Orleans took a four point lead into the fourth quarter by winning the third 33-17.
Fourth Quarter Finish
Beno Udrih almost ruined everything. He and Nick Calathes brought the Grizzlies back from a deficit that grew to six with a number of jump shots. One, a difficult catch and shoot off a down screen for Udrih, gave Memphis a 78-77 lead with 7:20 remaining. Thankfully, Alexis Ajinca and Norris Cole found a couple magic beans left and scored 11 straight points to give Tyreke Evans the rest he needed.
Mike Conley and Eric Gordon traded three point baskets and the Pelicans clung to a four point lead. The defense again answered the call. First, Omer Asik blocked a Gasol layup attempt. The carom found Tony Allen and the officials, as they had done all night, gave Memphis the benefit of the doubt. The ball, had other ideas and Allen went 1-2 at the line.
A beautiful (and incredibly dangerous) Evans pass found Ajinca under the basket, but the Frenchman was unable to convert the layup through the arms of Gasol. A Z-Bo hip check on Tony Allen created another Grizzly turnover. Another possession and another pass to Ajinca led to a jump ball which he lost to the 6'9" Jeff Green. Tyreke Evans got Green on the elbow trying to reach around to send him to the line. The officials had given Memphis every opportunity, but Green's first free throw missed and the Pelican lead stood at 91-89 with 26.2 seconds remaining.
Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Omer Asik combined to go 4-6 to seal the win from the line. Norris Cole continued to demonstrate defensive prowess as he cleanly challenged a Mike Conley last gasp effort behind the arc. The comeback complete, the Pelicans win 95-89.
Tomorrow the Pelicans will travel to Milwaukee to wrap up this nasty seven games in ten days stretch. So far they are 3-2. The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Toronto Raptors on NBATV. With a Raptor win the Pels will move into 8th in the West with 19 games to play.