Zion Williamson, who finished with a game-high 24 points and six rebounds, outshined Grizzlies guard Ja Morant’s 16-point outing with ease. Gentry called it the most complete game to date for the first overall pick, and on 9-of-15 shooting it led to a New Orleans season-high margin of victory at 28 points. With the 139-111 triumph over Memphis, Gentry became the seventh active and 33rd NBA coach of all-time to earn 500 victories.
“[Gentry] means a lot to me and this team,” Williamson said. “He’s my first NBA coach – and hopefully the only. To the team, he’s a player’s coach. He’s known like that around the league. He lets the players play while guiding them. It means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the league.”
New Orleans opened dominantly inside scoring 26 of its 31 first-quarter points in the paint while attempting zero free throws and only converting on a single three. At one point in the second quarter the Pelicans had scored more in the lane than Memphis had scored in total. However, New Orleans failed to post another bucket inside the paint during the last 7:55 of the first half on its way to just a seven-point halftime advantage after leading by as many as sixteen.
It was a 44-point outburst in the third that set the Pelicans back on the right track. First-year NBA All-Star selection Brandon Ingram scored double figures in a 12-minute span where the Grizzlies were edged by 17 points. It marks the fourth 40-point third quarter and the 11th 40-point quarter in general for New Orleans this season.
“If we would’ve been healthy throughout, we could’ve come to this point a lot quicker than we are,” Gentry reflected. “We’ve just got to continue to play and do our part. Whatever happens from there, happens from there. We’re not going to look at standings. We’re just going to try to make sure we’re a better team every day.”
Eight different Pelicans notched double-digit scoring numbers with their record improving to 20-29 overall as a result. Ingram and Jrue Holiday ended the night with 20 and 18 points respectively while combining to post 11 boards and 10 assists. Lonzo Ball went 5-of-7 from three-point range for 19 points, eight dimes and six rebounds.
Memphis and Morant will not see the Pelicans again until Saturday, March 21st, but the top picks did exchange jerseys following this contest.
“It’s just us talking about moving forward in our careers,” Morant said of the words exchanged with Williamson postgame. “Wishing each other luck. Just keep pushing and keep going.”