Zach Randolph scored 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out six assists as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 110-74. The Grizzlies finished with six players in double figures. Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks. With the loss, the Pelicans fall back into a tie with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Things can go left so fast.
The Pelicans entered the second quarter down just three points. Everything was looking good. Quincy Pondexter started off early against his former team, scoring eight points and knocking down a couple threes off some pretty good looks. Anthony Davis converted on a couple baskets and the combination of Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, while inefficient to start, scored five points a piece. Again, things were looking good for the Pelicans heading into the second.
Then, the rain came.
The Memphis Grizzlies came thundering down on the New Orleans defense. Vince Carter hit a three, Zach Randolph hit an improbable and-one shot that bounced multiple times on the rim and Mike Conley found a way to get off a simple floater and the Grizzlies entered the half with a 19-point lead. Most of the blame goes to the bench on this one. From the start of the second quarter to the 6:02 mark, the Pelicans used mostly reserves and were outscored 14-5. Memphis’ bench trio of Kosta Koufos, Beno Udrih and Vince Carter came together for a quick flurry of points.
When the starters came in, the result was much of the same. The Pelicans starters were outscored 12-7, which isn’t much, but it did allow Memphis to push the lead to an insurmountable heading into the third. Zach Randolph had a couple good plays to covert (including that momentum soaked and-one play) and Courtney Lee had an impressive basket for the Grizzlies. After using most of their energy to pull out the victory over Golden State last night, turning around and facing Memphis in Memphis while they’re looking to capture the second seed was a tough feat.
The second half wasn’t memorable, but I did wonder about the third. The Pelicans weren’t too bad in the third quarter on the offensive end. Anthony Davis went 3-4 with a couple good looks, Omer Asik looked a bit more aggressive than normal, including a nice cut it for an easy flush. The problem? The Pelicans’ defense couldn’t make the stops needed, allowing 60 percent from the field against Memphis. Gaol and Randolph combined for 10 points and Jeff Green had nine points, including a statue of liberty dunk.
The third killed me enough to where I didn’t see anything memorable in the fourth. A tough loss after a really good win. But there were some things that I liked and disliked. For starters, I liked New Orleans getting some good looks from beyond the arc early. Again, Pondexter got some good looks, and even though he didn’t finish, Eric Gordon continues to get a couple good looks. Just need to finish on some of those, Eric.
A couple bench related things here. The first is good god that defense. Not to beat a dead horse, but man was that small run in the second the beginning of the end. It was really bad and what made it worse was it was against Memphis’ backups. Norris Cole is a poor defender and with Pondexter on the wing, that perimeter defense was rough to watch. What made it worse is that they came out ice cold on the offensive. I'm sure that Ryan Anderson will hit a couple shots next time and some of those shots will go in, but the defense for the entire unit is just what it is at this point.
This was a tough loss, but the Pelicans still have won five or their last seven. Nothing a win in their next game can’t fix.
I have just one note here, due to the blowout. I can’t cover these games anymore. The Pelicans are 1-6 when I cover games after the all-star break. I’m bad luck. I want to see New Orleans make the playoffs. If I merely decided to not cover a game, the Pelicans are probably sitting pretty with a lead heading into the final games. Blame me. I was there when Oklahoma City defeated the Pelicans the first time, the game where Anthony Davis became unstoppable against the Nuggets and when they lost to Boston. Terrible, terrible timing.