The New Orleans Pelicans fell 141-114 to the Memphis Grizzlies, and an early haymaker set the tone for the rest of the game.
Through the first six minutes of the contest, the Pelicans trailed 11-9. Nearly 12 minutes later, their deficit stood at 49-32.
The Grizzlies overcame some early turnover woes, started to get out in transition more with Ja Morant attacking the lane relentlessly, and hit the majority of their 3-pointers (8-15) — they had too many good looks — in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans managed but a lone make from deep in 15 attempts and Jonas Valanciunas was an absolute foul magnet.
Valanciunas was forced to take his first rest after picking up his second foul just 1:45 in. His next stretch of the first half didn’t go much better, picking up personal #3 and #4 just seconds apart.
The New Orleans starting center finished the first half with more personal fouls than field goal attempts — in just 4:56 of the game clock.
The same distress continued right out of the locker room. After Valanciunas hit a couple of free throws, he picked up personal foul #5 only 39 seconds into the second half. The Grizzlies proceeded to go on an 11-0 run. In addition, Memphis’ hot shooting continued, adding four more 3s to their tally within the first four minutes.
In essence, this matchup felt over with 8:07 left in the third quarter and the Grizzlies leading 84-54.
In some of their previous lopsided defeats, New Orleans made genuine comebacks or at least didn’t go down without a fight. That didn’t occur today.
At the end of the third quarter, the Pelicans trailed 119-80. They had 15 assists versus 12 turnovers and were 4-22 from 3-point range.
Desmond Bane and Zaire Williams each had four makes from 3 alone for the Grizzlies through the game’s first 36 minutes.
There was nothing of significance to tell about the fourth quarter.
Throughout the game, the lack of focus and effort was all too noticeable, especially in comparison to the Grizzlies who never stepped off the gas. Jaxson Hayes was burned much too easily by Jaren Jackson on an early drive from the perimeter and was later too slow in getting around a screen. Herb Jones forgot to rotate into the lane and give help when it was his responsibility. He also committed a silly foul on a Memphis 3-point attempt. Devonte’ Graham threw a jump pass to a fan and Jose Alvarado had a double dribble infraction without much pressure.
“We have to be better,” Willie Green said. “Our guys know that. This is not typically us. But tonight we just had a let down.”
No lies uttered by the head coach.
The only other thing worth mentioning was a show of some gamesmanship by Morant on Trey Murphy III late in the first half.
These Grizzlies have built up a reputation for playing some mind games, taunting, you name it this season. It’s hard to be mad at a young team walking around with a lot of swagger. They’re had a number of impressive victories and sit second in the Western Conference standings.
That said, it was nice to see Murphy not back down, or conversely, escalate this situation. The rookie didn’t fall for the bait.
CJ McCollum finished with a team-high 16 points, needing 17 shot attempts to get to that total. Jaxson Hayes had 13 points, five rebounds and one ridiculous dunk over Steven Adams.
Off the bench, Jose Alvarado had 12 points and five assists, and Willy Hernangomez added 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Dillion Brooks led the Grizzlies with 23 points and Ja Morant posted a line of 21 points, four rebounds and nine assists.
Only one more game remains on the schedule for New Orleans, but there is still a lot to play for: the Pelicans haven't secured the ninth seed and the right to host the first play-in game yet.
That mission could be accomplished tomorrow with a victory over the Warriors, or a Spurs’ loss later tonight against the same Warriors or in their Sunday matchup in Dallas.
Let’s hope Brandon Ingram can suit up against Golden State tomorrow and we aren’t stuck wishing for a Mavericks victory on the final day of the regular season.
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.