After Saturday night's heroics by way of Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans (18-28) are trying to let the good times roll (shout to The Cars) at the Smoothie King Center against the Memphis Grizzlies (28-20). For all of their unassuming, bore-inducing brand of basketball, the Grizz are always a tough foe with their two paint behemoths and the crafty Mike Conley leading the charge.
So far, the two teams have played two of their allotted four games against one another. The first was a tough home loss with New Orleans actually playing at nearly full strength (Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Holiday and Anthony Davis all played ... What a concept!), and the second coming during an MLK Day matinee without the talents of Evans in a game that very easily could have resulted in a win too.
For whatever reason, the Pelicans tend to play the Grizzlies well...
Wait a second.
You hear that?
Omer Asik's music?!?!
(That was a little nod to Bill Simmons. Sorry.)
As I was saying, the Pelicans fare well against the Grizz, usually keeping games competitive throughout. Yes, Asik plays a big, sweaty hand in that as he is able to match up against both of Memphis' bigs when needed. Alvin Gentry elected to put Asik on Zach Randolph during the MLK Day matinee and that proved to be a noble choice. Our expensive Turkish big man held Randolph to a shaky 3 for 9 from the field en route to only eight points.
Since Asik is locking horns with Randolph, that leaves Davis to be tasked with defending the more "finesse" big; Marc Gasol. Davis held his own on MLK day, allowing only 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting -- leaps and bounds ahead of the 38-13-6 outburst Gasol poured on the Pellies back in early December.
Although he is listed as questionable (left knee) for Monday night's contest, let's assume Gasol will play as the Pelicans have been granted very few gifts on the season. Neutralizing him will be a key factor to victory. The battle for proper post position is something to monitor closely because if Gasol gets to his spot of choice he is a real pain to stop:
Good luck to everyone if he has that going all night.
On the offensive side, the Pelicans have to push the pace as much as possible. Much of that will fall on the immortal Norris Cole during the early stages of the game, but then Holiday (hopefully) for the rest of the way. Memphis ranks 27th in the league in terms of pace, so getting them into a track meet is the best way to deviate them from their comfort zone.
To the surprise of nobody, the lineup featuring Davis and Ryan Anderson in the front court played well in the previous match up, creating mismatches even when the Grizz chose to utilize smaller lineups featuring Matt Barnes or Jeff Green at power forward.
Anderson especially feasted with a litany of post ups and Dirkish fadeaways on undersized wings masked as front line players:
That little move of his is straight saucy and nearly sent John Berry into a comma during the broadcast.
"Did you see how much space he created with that shot?!" Never change John Berry, never change.
New Orleans also showcased the deadly Anderson/Davis high screen combination that is absolutely unguardable:
Poor Matt Barnes gets stuck with the tasking decision of impeding a potential Davis lob or allowing a wide open look for Anderson. That is a lose-lose situation. Which begs the question: WHY DON'T THE PELICANS RUN THAT ACTION EVERY TIME ANDERSON AND DAVIS SHARE THE FLOOR? It wreaks so much havoc for a defense.
Run that play every time down the court and victory is nearly guaranteed. (If only it were that easy.)