Nearly one year to the date Anthony Davis requested a trade out of New Orleans, the Pelicans are not forced to skip this year’s festivities without their long-time representative on the roster. The idea that the Pelicans would need to wait for one of the young guns obtained in any AD trade package or rookie drafted from last year’s class to grow his game and make the ascension to an all-star level has now been scrapped.
With averages of 25.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and showing incredible improvement from three-point range (40.4% on 6.8 attempts) as well as the free throw line (85.6% on 6.3 attempts), Ingram has been well deserving of being invited to the 2020 Game all season.
Ingram’s genuine reaction was captured upon receiving the good news and teammates and staff demanded a speech. He delivered a good one!
So, BI and Zo came in for their usual evening shooting workout with Coach Fred Vinson and this happened!!! Incredibly happy to see his hard work rewarded and Zo might have been the happiest guy in the room. pic.twitter.com/khll85O9Wl— David Griffin (@dg_riff) January 31, 2020
That’s good stuff. Congrats B’Easy!
Despite the wonderful moment on Thursday evening, the Pelicans had perhaps their most important matchup to think about just hours away. The Memphis Grizzlies, who currently sit eighth in the Western Conference, come to town on Friday and the upcoming game honestly feels like a must-win for New Orleans.
The Grizzlies have a 2.5-game lead over the ninth-seeded Spurs, but they’re five games ahead of the Pelicans. If New Orleans loses tonight’s matchup, they will fall six back with just 33 games remaining on the schedule — seemingly too daunting of a task.
Similar to their last matchup where they had won seven straight, the Grizzlies are arriving on a four-game win streak. They’re easily playing their best ball of the season despite notching the L versus the Pels on MLK Day.
One positive development for the Pelicans: Jaren Jackson Jr. was suspended for tonight’s contest after leaving the bench during Wednesday’s altercation with the New York Knicks. It’s pretty easy to blame Jae Crowder for this though, after he broke long understood protocol by stealing the ball and shooting a three-pointer inside the final minute of an obvious Memphis victory.
The Knicks and Grizzlies had to be separated after Elfrid Payton’s hard foul on Jae Crowder late in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/t1YWR5Wxdt— ESPN (@espn) January 30, 2020
There’s just no need for that garbage in the league, but Crowder’s mistake could be New Orleans gain. Jackson Jr. is the Grizzlies leading scorer on the season (17.7 points) and he’s been really good in defending the lane (2.5 blocks) on this current 11-2 stretch by Memphis.
Brandon Clarke is a fantastic back-up, but one has to believe he’ll have his hands completely full with a fellow rookie. Zion Williamson is averaging 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds through four games and he’s clearly overwhelmed opponents, having converted on two-thirds of his field goal opportunities.
In addition to Zion bulldozing the competition, the Pelicans starting lineup looks like a buzzsaw with the first overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. The unit of Lonzo Ball-Jrue Holiday-Brandon Ingram-Zion Williamson-Derrick Favors has outscored opponents by 18 points in 44 minutes. They’ve been stout defensively (94.6 Defensive Rating) and dominant on the glass (52.4 rebounding percentage).
This is all good news because despite Jackson serving a one-game suspension the Grizzlies still possess very good firepower in Ja Morant, Dillion Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas. Morant has grabbed a lot of the headlines with worthy highlights, but Brooks (21.4 points, 2.9 threes) and Valanciunas (16.4 points, 11.8 rebounds) have been absolutely huge over the past ten games. Holiday and company are going to need to force Brooks to shoot difficult shots and D-Fave is going to need to keep Valanciunas away from the offensive glass.
Since January 4th, only the Milwaukee Bucks have posted a better record at 10-1. The Grizzlies, though, own the highest FG% over this stretch and they’ve been tops in fastbreak points and points in the paint, too.
Despite the Pelicans convincing 126-116 victory eleven days ago, except Memphis to arrive in New Orleans looking for a little revenge and Ja Morant to steal the show. However, if Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram play up to their capabilities and Zion Williamson stings like a bee, the Pels should have a good opportunity to grab this important win.
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (19-29) vs Memphis Grizzlies (24-24)
Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA
When: Friday, January 31, 2019, 7:00 PM CST