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Monday Blues: Pelicans lose 115-110 to Grizzlies, play-in tournament hopes all but squashed

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Ja Morant can finally say he beat New Orleans

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fitting that New Orleans’ postseason hopes came crashing down on a Monday, the most depressing day of the week for so many.

While the odds weren’t all that great, the Pelicans woke up to several scenarios of squeezing into the play-in tournament. However, by the end of the night’s slate of NBA games, a 115-110 loss to the Grizzlies and the Spurs crushing the Bucks by a 146-125 margin extinguished nearly all dreams of the Pels playing beyond this regular season.

Following a script very similar to the last two games, the Pelicans found themselves behind by a significant margin at halftime, trailing the Grizzlies 71-59, yet a 29-15 third quarter resurgence made it anyone’s game heading to the fourth.

With 1:17 remaining in regulation, a Nickeil Alexander-Walker 3-pointer made it a one possession game at 112-110, but those were the last points the Pelicans would muster.

Once again, New Orleans didn’t quit and the young guys on the roster acquitted themselves well. Alexander-Walker finished with a New Orleans game-high of 18 points and appeared in midseason form, carrying the offense often in his limited minutes.

Jaxson Hayes didn’t register a blocked shot, but he wowed onlookers with a perfect 3-3 shooting performance from the 3-point line en route to 13 points.

Naji Marshall finished with a double-double, posting a line of 12 points, 11 rebounds and three steals, and Wenyen Gabriel added eight points, five rebounds and two treys in 20 minutes off the bench.

While the rest of the starters alongside Naji all scored in double figures, the unit began the game extremely slow on both ends of the floor and they didn’t register the positive impact we’ve seen of late.

James Johnson’s 3-point shot has abandoned him, Willy Hernangomez was overmatched against a quality starting center in Jonas Valanciunas (20 points, 11 rebounds), Lonzo Ball wasn’t aggressive enough offensively (seven shot attempts in 34 minutes) and Eric Bledsoe’s head-scratching decisions were a talking point again.

To sum it all up, the Pelicans didn’t play well enough to win. An excellent defensive third quarter couldn’t overcome the lack of contributions or miscues surrounding that frame.

Ja Morant finished with only 12 points for the Grizzlies, but Dillion Brooks’ 23 points and Valanciunas’ double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) paved the way for Memphis to beat New Orleans for the first time in more than two years.

Now, three games remain on the schedule for the Pelicans, with a date against the Mavericks looming on Wednesday in Dallas.

We’ve almost reached the end, y’all. We may not see Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram appear in a game again this season, but I’m willing to bet a few more fun and interesting things are in store before 2020-21 is a wrap.

This young core feels like a real core that’s bound for bigger and better things.

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.