There was very little resemblance in how New Orleans played in tonight’s 132-111 loss to Memphis from their previous six games which resulted in five victories. Moreover, the writing was on the wall regarding this outcome only minutes into the contest.
The Pelicans were more than a step slow, also lacking the requisite aggression and focus. Meanwhile, a heavy dose of fight was never in question with the Grizzlies.
“They came in right away from the start of the game and just played with more force,” Willie Green said. “They knocked down a lot of shots. They basically got whatever they wanted: 3s, points in the paint, they got to the free throw line. It just wasn’t our night.”
A part of how things unfolded, I’m sure, has to do with the fact that one team’s schedule was infinitely friendlier this week. The Grizzlies have been home since Monday, getting a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving with friends and family for over a full two days in Memphis.
On the other hand, the Pelicans flew to San Antonio on Tuesday, played the Spurs but then flew back to New Orleans late Wednesday, had Thanksgiving with family on Thursday and then departed for Memphis later the same day.
But to be fair, the biggest reason for the disappointing L was the fact that the Pelicans just didn’t match the level of intensity from the Grizzlies — and plenty could be gleamed from how the two biggest stars were guarded.
Zion Williamson saw multiple sets of eyes and bodies on every touch. He wasn’t given anything. Ja Morant, though, was allowed to go one-on-one, and then when he was rolling offensively, the Pelicans didn’t even try to prevent him from catching the rock.
The Pelicans trailed 20-7 out of the gates, but the deficit wasn’t as much of the problem as Memphis seeing the ball go through the hoop.
This was especially true for Dillion Brooks and Steven Adams. Brooks is normally inefficient. Adams never looks to shoot. But both Memphis players looked like All-Stars in the first half, making a variety of buckets to help Morant immensely in the scoring department.
Additionally, the Grizzlies are a middle of the road team in terms of makes from 3-point range. (They’re below average without Desmond Bane.) However, once they saw four of their first six attempts drop from deep, they were very much in the zone, feeling good about every hoisted shot.
With New Orleans dissuading so very little, Memphis shot 12 of 24 from 3 in the first half, leading to their 68-48 halftime lead. They also enjoyed advantages in fast break points, points in the paint and points off turnovers.
Oh, and Brandon Ingram was forced to leave the game late in the second quarter with a foot injury. The Pelicans forward kicked the back of Brooks’ right foot while bringing the ball up the floor, spraining his left big toe.
The second half saw no change in the momentum. We even had a plea from Joel Meyers simply asking for the Pelicans to finish the game the right way with 4:59 left in the frame and facing an 89-59 deficit.
It was a lopsided affair from start to finish.
“Without getting into too much of the specifics, we just weren’t ready to play and it starts with me,” Green said. “I’ve got to have us ready to play. Our overall effort just wasn’t there tonight.”
Trey Murphy, who scored 10 points in the opening quarter, finished with 21 points and three rebounds. The best parts about his minutes, though, were the fact that his right foot looked healthy and he was able to get to the free throw line seven times.
Zion Williamson had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Herb Jones totaled 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two 3s.
Dillion Brooks led the Grizzlies with 25 points, with Ja Morant adding a 23-point and 11-assist double-double and Jaren Jackson Jr. pouring in 20 points amid some foul trouble.
The Pelicans dropped a dud on Black Friday. Not having CJ McCollum to keep Memphis’ defense honest hurt, but let’s be real, New Orleans’ typical levels of effort and attention to detail were not present.
Fortunately, the Pelicans do not have another game until Monday, where they’ll welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder inside the Smoothie King Center. Let’s hope they can shake off this defeat quickly because there were no real positives.