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Pelicans at Grizzlies preview: New Orleans needs to do a better job with fundamentals

The losses are piling on fast now, and if it’s not one thing, it’s another helping lead to the unfavorable outcome.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (0-4) travel to play the Memphis Grizzlies (2-2) tonight in the FedExForum at 7pm CST. The game will be televised on Fox Sports New Orleans or Fox Sports South East, or one can listen in to 99.5FM.

After losing to the Bucks last night, the Pelicans are reeling and in search of answers. They had believed that the earlier defensive improvements were real and finding some more offense around Anthony Davis was the key. 113 points later, including 9 three-pointers and 32 free throws, Alvin Gentry is back at the drawing board because the defense gave up 117 points to a team that had been averaging 96.3.

Instead of painting the dismal picture with hundreds of additional words, let’s just peruse several of the mistakes Gentry referred to in his post-game comments with clips from the loss to Milwaukee. Although numerous players made a number of errors, I’m going to focus on Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham here, because let’s face it, I was far from enamored with their performances.

First up, failure to keep proper defensive contact with the play. The Pelicans did a poor job of consistently creating enough resistance against the Bucks.

Ajinca is flat-footed to begin with, so as soon as a play changes direction, he’s got to react immediately in order to be able to contest that shot attempt at the rim. Meanwhile, Cunningham can’t give opponents oodles of space because even poor shooters can make a jumper given time to line it up like a free throw attempt, or conversely, allow a bad perimeter shooter to beat him back door.

Next, all personnel must understand the need to go the extra mile. The Pelicans are not a supremely talented team so putting forth maximum effort and helping each other finish possessions could cut a few points here and there from the total.

Had Cunningham and Ajinca each made a more concerted effort to finish the above plays strongly and either come up with rebounds or dissuaded the opponents from corralling the ball, the Bucks would have scored four fewer points — the difference in the ballgame.

Both Gentry and Davis were frustrated with Monday’s loss and specific instances like the ones outlined above will continue to keep wins at an arm’s length away. Plus, facing the Grizzlies on the road on the second night of a back-to-back was already going to put the Pelicans at a significant disadvantage, but if they continue to fail to do the little things and dismiss one too many fundamentals again, a rested Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will carve up New Orleans — less than 24 hours ago, their team was humiliated up in Minnesota by the Timberwolves. I’m sure the Grizzlies are itching to get back into the win column.