When the game clock hits zero tomorrow night in the FedEx Forum, the Pelicans will officially be on their All-Star break. The Pelican brass will have ample time to discuss how the franchise should navigate the second half: “do we focus on next season or make a run for the playoffs?” “Are we going to be buyers or sellers leading up to the trade deadline?” “Is Alvin Gentry the man in charge or do we make a change?” All of these questions and more will — hopefully — be thought out and answered between then and when the Pelicans return to the court on February 23 for a contest against the Rockets.
But before we can get to that point, there is still a game to be played for New Orleans: wrapping up a four-game road trip in Memphis against the Grizzlies. A division foe, Memphis is, once more, holding steady in the Western Conference pecking order. Sitting at 34-23, the Grizzlies are the West’s current sixth seed and only half a game behind Utah for the five spot. Furthermore, the Grizz are also merely a game back of the Clippers for the fourth-seed and having homecourt in the opening round of the playoffs.
When we talk about this iteration of Memphis, there really isn’t much difference in this team and other Grizzlies teams we’ve gotten to know and love over the past decade. Their calling card is, once again, “Grit and Grind.” Memphis is third in the league in points allowed, 99.6, and fourth in defensive rating, 105.7. And, per usual, Memphis is content with slowing the game down and doing just enough on offense to get the job done. They are 28th in pace, 27th in points scored and 18th in offensive rating. But, as they have many years before, they stick to their identity and it works for them.
Leading the way for the Grizzlies are the usual suspects: Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen. They’re a year older, sure, but this nucleus is as good as ever. Gasol is an All-Star once again, Conley sits comfortably in the upper echelon of NBA point guards and Randolph is still at the top of my list I’d rather not fight. The list, in case you’re wondering, goes Randolph, the actual Memphis Grizzly and Randolph again just to be respectful. Randolph is like my Don Corleone and I’m kissing his ring before his ring kisses my temple, you know what I mean?
Wednesday night in the FedEx Forum will mark round three for the Pelicans and Grizzlies. The first two contests went in favor of Memphis, but both games went to overtime and the combined margin of victory for the two games is eight points. Division games are a lot like this scene from Dodgeball:
What I’m saying is there’s not much Memphis can do to surprise New Orleans and vice versa. Zach Randolph probably won’t be running point for Memphis, and New Orleans, though I can’t confirm, won’t try and throw the Grizzlies for a loop by executing Omer Asik-Dante Cunningham pick and rolls. These two teams know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well so tomorrow night we’ll just see who can get the best of whom this time around.
What: Pelicans at Grizzlies
Where: FedEx Forum — Memphis, TN
When: February 15th, 2017 at 7:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southeast 99.5 FM WRNO