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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans try to find footing in Memphis against free-falling Grizzlies on MLK Day

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Anthony Davis will not play, but New Orleans still has a solid chance of getting back into the win column.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans look to end their five-game road trip on a high note in the home of The Blues, as they face the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday afternoon.

This will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams. They split the first two, with each winning on their home floor.

Both teams are in precarious positions, sitting 12th and 14th respectively in the Western Conference standings.

Memphis (19-27) appears to be in free fall, having lost 11 of its last 12 games, including its last five in a row.

The days of the Grizzlies being a consistent playoff team seem a lifetime ago. Franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. recently met with owner Robert Pera to discuss the direction of the franchise, and Gasol may be headed out of town before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Just two games ahead of the Grizzlies, the Pelicans will enter the FedEx Forum trying to bounce back after dropping three of the previous four games away from home and losing Anthony Davis for up to two weeks with a sprained index finger on his left hand.

Neither team will have an advantage, with Memphis sporting the Western Conference’s second-worst home record (11-10) and New Orleans tied for the third-most road losses (19) in the NBA.

Polar opposites from the Pelicans offensively, the Grizzlies still grind it out, ranking last in the association in both scoring (101.0) and pace and second in points allowed (103.8).

While Gasol and Conley have been solid against the Pelicans, combining for per game averages of 26.5 points, 14.0 assists, and 8.0 rebounds, it has been Memphis’ role players who have really shone.

JaMychal Green has been a terror, averaging 20.0 points and 6.5 rebounds on 68.2 percent shooting (62.5 on 3PA) in his previous two games. Green is scoring 10.6 ppg on the season as a whole.

Kyle Anderson (12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.5 assists, 2.0 blocks) and Joakim Noah (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 steals) have also see big upticks in production when facing New Orleans.

That track record of frontcourt production doesn’t bode well for a team ranked 27th in the NBA defensively and missing its best interior defender.

Memphis’ deliberate offense has been able to take advantage of the Pelicans’ lack of size and discipline on that end of the court.

With Davis out, the Pelicans will need their own role players to up their games.

The prime candidates to do so are reserves Frank Jackson and Jahlil Okafor. Jackson is averaging 17.0 ppg on 70 percent shooting in only 19 minutes per game against Memphis this season. Okafor has posted 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds with a team-leading +/- of 12.0 versus the Grizzlies.

Solomon Hill is a potential wild card (Yes, it’s gotten this bad), having scored a season-high 14 points against the Grizzlies in their Dec. 7 matchup.

A win could allow Pelicans fans to exhale for just a moment, as the team tries to at least not lose any more ground with AD sidelined.

Most importantly, let’s not forget to celebrate the life and honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The NBA deserves plenty of credit for embracing King’s legacy and evolving from simply playing games on his holiday to creating a day of service and awareness of how far our country has to go to reach his goals of racial, social, and economic justice for all Americans.

I leave you with his words.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Memphis New Orleans
ORtg: 104.2 ORtg: 113.6
DRtg: 106.8 DRtg: 112.0
Net: -2.6 Net: +1.6
Projected Starters:
Memphis New Orleans
PG - Mike Conley Jr. PG - Elfrid Payton
SG - Justin Holiday SG - Jrue Holiday
SF - Garrett Temple SF - E'Twaun Moore
PF - Jaren Jackson Jr. PF - Nikola Mirotic
C - Marc Gasol PF - Julius Randle
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Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans (21-25) at Memphis Grizzlies (19-27)

Where: Fedex Forum, Memphis, TN

When: Monday, January 21, 2018, 4:30 p.m. Central

How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO

For more from David Grubb, as well as Oleh Kosel, Kevin Barrios and Preston Ellis, check out our latest episode of The Bird Calls Podcast!