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Jrue Holiday’s return, Brandon Ingram’s closing ability spark New Orleans Pelicans to 126-116 victory over Memphis Grizzlies

Pels end another impressive opponent win streak in recent days!!!

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Coming on the heels of ending a Utah Jazz 10-game win streak last Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans waved goodbye to the Memphis Grizzlies’ seven-game winning streak with a 126-116 victory on MLK Day.

Jrue Holiday, who had missed the previous seven games with a left elbow tricep strain injury, made a triumphant return by obliterating the Grizzlies defense to the tune of 36 points — tying a season-high, seven made threes — setting a new career-high, six rebounds and two steals. He shot 12-18 from the field and nailed all five of his free throw attempts.

New Orleans, however, wouldn’t have sealed the deal without the contributions of Brandon Ingram. B’Easy scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 12 straight during a nail-biting time when Memphis had reduced New Orleans lead from 18 to five. Ingram’s performance was yet another fine example to file away in a stacked portfolio for his 2020 All-Star campaign.

From the opening tip, the Grizzlies’ game plan was obvious: attack the Pelicans inside with sheer size superiority. Jaren Jackson received the touches early and it led to Ingram picking up a couple of personal fouls within the game’s first seven minutes. Fortunately for New Orleans, they were able to offset their opponent’s points in the paint by starting the game on fire from three-point range.

Jrue Holiday hit on his first two looks from deep and five different Pels made a three-pointer in the first quarter. The Pelicans proceeded to follow up six makes in 12 attempts in that first frame with another nine bombs out of 17 attempts in the 2nd. When the dust settled, New Orleans had set a new franchise record with 15 made threes in the first half, leading to a dominant 69-50 advantage over the Grizzlies at halftime.

Jrue’s five made threes were the first half storyline, but don’t overlook Nicolo Melli draining three of his six long range attempts. Melli was instrumental in the Pels win for the second time in four games, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks — including this gem of a rejection on Ja Morant.

The third quarter was largely played to a draw, with New Orleans eking out a 29-27 edge. Instead of another three-point barrage though, the Pelicans relied on getting to the free throw line and they converted all 10 of their attempts.

“I thought for the most part we did a really good job,” said Gentry. “I think we got off to a good start, especially in the second quarter. I thought our defense was really good. We did about as good of a job as you can do on Ja {Morant} in those situations. We tried to keep him out of the paint as much as we possibly could, but they’re a very good young team. They’ve got some really good pieces, but I thought we did a great job. I thought Jrue Holiday coming back and playing the way he did was obviously great for us. I thought B.I. did a great job at the end of just closing it.”

If there was any doubt as to who is the leader of this team, one doesn’t need to look any further than that near fourth quarter meltdown. Following Jrue’s last made three on the night at the 7:43 mark, the Pelicans offense hit a wall. Conversely, the Grizzlies roared to life. With Memphis creeping closer and closer, Brandon Ingram was the only Pelican to score any points over the next six+ minutes. In fact, B.I. was the offense until JJ Redick deposited a three with 36 seconds remaining in the game.

It wasn’t pretty down the stretch, but nevertheless, the win marks New Orleans 11th in their last 16 games and they now sit 3.5 games behind Memphis for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Looking ahead, the whole world knows what’s on tap!

Zion Williamson is scheduled to return in a few days against the San Antonio Spurs. While he’s sure to give the whole lineup a boost, here’s another fun fact to consider.

Oh hell yes. This New Orleans Pelicans season isn’t over — it’s just getting started.