Both the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies limped into the game tonight. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Michael Conley, Mario Chalmers (waived after tearing his Achillies), Chris Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole, Alexis Ajinca, and Bryce Dejean-Jones were out due to injury. That's 11 players! Almost all of them would be rotation players if healthy. Memphis started Briante Weber, who just signed a 10-day contract, at point guard. It was Weber's first ever NBA game. Vince Carter soon joined the walking wounded.
The game, predictably, was sloppy from the start. Memphis shot 28% in the first quarter. There were some hilarious lineups as Alvin Gentry and David Joerger had to find five players to put on the floor at a time. Lance Stephenson led the Grizzlies back into the lead in the second quarter. He's still alive! At the half Memphis held a 48-47 lead. It was just as ugly as a glance at the injured list would suggest.
Really cool to see that the good folks over at Fox Sports New Orleans have been reading the site. In case you missed it, here is the piece Joel Meyers and David Wesley were talking about.
In a bit of news, Joel Meyers mentioned that Alvin Gentry would like the Pelicans to rank in the top five in pace next season. In part to achieve that aim Gentry has an affinity for Toney Douglas, who has done well keeping the tempo up when he's operating as the point guard. This is a bit of good news. Douglas is a competent if limited reserve and under contract next season for the minimum. On the flip side, Gentry seems overly concerned with the Pelicans being fast for the sake of speed. Meh.
The third quarter produced more of the same. New Orleans, especially when Jrue Holiday left the game with foul trouble, got into the mud with the Grizzlies. Gone were the high screen and rolls and in were a focus on getting Anthony Davis that ball on the low block. This went about as well as it has all season. Davis had moderate success when the ball actually got into the post, but the lack of movement and creativity around those post ups led to standing and watching. Memphis began to extend a lead and Lance Stephenson was dancing.
Ryan Anderson wasn't interested in getting blown out. In the fourth quarter the Pelicans pulled the game back even on the back of Ryno scoring 10 points in the first four minutes of the frame. For the next five minutes the teams went back and forth. Memphis started making 3-pointers that teams welcome them to take with around four minutes remaining. Matt Barnes buried one from the top of the key. The next possession Lance Stephenson hit one from about the same spot over the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis. Sure. Whatever.
Would the Pelicans fold? Not tonight. A Holiday-Davis pick and roll was snuffed out but Jrue Holiday set up Anderson for a 3-pointer on the left wing to give New Orleans a 97-95 lead with 1:18 to go. The next possession Memphis tried to string out the pick and roll but Holiday found a wide open Davis in the paint for a dunk. Memphis didn't help off the weakside aggressively, thanks in part to a Cunningham screen for Ryan Anderson drawing a ton of attention. Memphis refused to give in and got some second chance points thanks to a JaMychal Green putback. Both teams came up empty on their final possessions and hello free basketball! (Note, the Pelicans travel to Milwaukee and play tomorrow evening.)
Memphis rode their home crowd (which sounds amazing on television) in the overtime period. Lance Stephenson set a career high. Matt Barnes kept hitting threes. Importantly, they cleaned up their pick and roll coverage to force anyone but Anthony Davis to beat them. Tony Allen, a superb defender in his own right, covered Jrue Holiday solo and forced the unenviable decision of a bunch of mid-range pull ups or forcing passes into opening that simple did not exist.
Jrue Holiday led the Pelicans with 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists but was on the sloppy side with 7 turnovers. Anthony Davis had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Anderson was critical off the bench with 24 points and 12 rebounds. For my money the player of the game was Dante Cunningham. Cunningham scored 17 points on 7-11 shooting (including 2-5 behind the arc) with 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Dante is going to be a steal on that contract. An absolute steal.
The Pels will hop right on a plane for Milwaukee. They play the Bucks tomorrow night at 6:00 PM. Davis (46 minutes), Cunningham (46), Douglas (42), and Holiday (41) are sure to have some tired legs.