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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans and DeMarcus Cousins seek to get past Memphis Grizzlies

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Although the Pelicans are likely to be without Anthony Davis, they still hope to make amends for an opening day loss.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (20-19) will face the Memphis Grizzlies (12-27) for a second time this season inside the FedEx Forum. These two teams last squared off on opening day, with the Grizzlies handing the Pelicans a 103-91 road defeat.

Outside of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans was unable to get anything going offensively in that first matchup. At the time, this didn’t come as a surprise to many as the Grizzlies were expected to seriously challenge for a spot in the 2018 playoffs and the Pelicans supporting cast was thought to be wholly underwhelming and impotent.

Fast forward to now and those opinions couldn’t be any more dead and buried. Memphis has hovered near the cellar of the Western Conference for weeks while New Orleans has discovered they possess plenty of firepower around their two All-NBA big men.

Since November 11th, the Grizzlies have won just five games and managed to eke out just three victories in their previous 14 home games. Only the Orlando Magic have posted a sadder overall winning percentage over this time frame.

The biggest reason for their fall from grace has been injuries. Mike Conley has missed 27 games, Wayne Selden Jr., 34, and Brandan Wright and JaMychal Green each 15. Although Chandler Parsons has appeared in 26 of 39 games, he is expected to miss his fifth straight game.

For the Pelicans, the usual four will be out, but there’s a good chance Davis’ name will also be on the list. Head Coach Alvin Gentry remarked after Tuesday’s practice that he doesn’t believe his usual starting power forward would suit up against Memphis.

Three Keys to Victory

Shadow Evans. Since Conley went down with an Achilles injury, Tyreke Evans has seized control of the Grizzlies offense. He leads the team in a number of categories and, perhaps most surprisingly, has morphed into their most effective three-point shooter. In Memphis’ last five wins, Evans is averaging 25.2 points, 7.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 threes and 1.2 steals. He’s been a great story — and it’s even better to see him healthy again, but the Pelicans have to make it a priority to keep their former teammate under wraps.

Keep Grizzlies away from charity stripe. It’s no secret that Memphis has trouble scoring points so the Pelicans can’t allow the Grizzlies extra opportunities from the foul line. In wins, Memphis averages a hefty 26.8 FTA a game; in losses, the number of free throw attempts drops down to 20.4.

Execute! We know the Pelicans like to have fun, say when Rajon Rondo is breaking another franchise assist record, but boring and methodical will get the job done against the Grizzlies. The last thing New Orleans wants to do is commit a high number of turnovers and give the Grizzlies and their home fans something to get excited about. Memphis may not be very good, but give them the opportunity and they’ll rack up the points off turnovers, too.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies

Where: FedExForum

When: January 10, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM