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Game Thread: Slowing down Ja Morant will be priority for Pelicans in matchup versus Grizzlies

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Lonzo Ball’s defense may be relied upon heavily again

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis, New Orleans’ opponent on the night, is an interesting team.

The Grizzlies have already beaten the Nets and Spurs twice, and have also registered wins over the 76ers and Suns. After the first week of the season, their strength was a staunch defense — until recently. High scoring losses to both the Pacers (134-116) and the Rockets (115-103) in their last two games have dropped them down in the defensive rankings some, but they remain a dangerous team in fast breaks and scoring in the paint in general.

Considering how much difficultly the Pelicans have had with slowing downhill wings and guards (De’Aaron Fox!), Stan Van Gundy stated to pregame media that his team must be super mindful of Ja Morant’s ability to get into the lane. Eric Bledsoe needs to play well tonight defensively, but I worry he may not be up to the task. If Lonzo Ball gets the assignment, I fear the Grizzlies may enjoy numerous open looks from three-point range.

Despite Memphis not possessing one of the more potent offenses around, the Pelicans’ defense is going to get tested. Steven Adams and Zion Williamson will need to win the paint battle (Jonas Valanciunas returns to action for Memphis tonight) and Morant simply can’t be allowed to resemble Fox.

For more on tonight’s matchup, please give David Grubb’s preview a read, and if you missed it, our recap highlights the spectacular play of Lonzo Ball in last night’s win over the Pacers.

Geaux Pels!

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.