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Grizzlies give up an early lead and fall to the Pelicans

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A hot start wasn't enough to overcome a ghastly stretch by the Memphis Grizzlies in New Orleans tonight.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Final - 12.13.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Memphis Grizzlies 34 20 11 33 98
New Orleans Pelicans 26 29 27 22 104

Complete Coverage >

After a less-than-successful six-game home stand, the Grizzlies looked to get back to .500 on the road in New Orleans against the talented but inexperienced Pelicans, who were missing Anthony Davis. After a hot start, Memphis again struggled to keep the effort up through four quarters and ultimately found themselves in another huge hole from which they could not recover.

1st Quarter

Tony Allen, returning from a nagging hip injury, welcomed himself back with a deflection on the first possession of the game, then hit a couple of buckets to continue his awesome (for him) offensive season. The Grizz got off to a blazing 8/10 start and pulled out an early 8 point lead; The Pelicans responded by switching to a 2-3 zone which flustered the offensive movement a bit, but Conley hit back-to-back triples and Zach Randolph grabbed 6 boards (to go with 8 points) to help maintain the lead. The Grizzlies scored a healthy 34 in the quarter, but led only by 6 courtesy of poor transition defense against Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.

2nd Quarter

Things slowed down in the second as Calathes and Ed Davis came into the game. Davis was 4/5 after sitting out the first quarter, and Jon Leuer, who has played great through the last five games, hit his first six shots to help the Grizz keep their lead well into the second. But the Pelicans shot themselves back into the game, retaking the lead with less than 3 minutes left in the half on a 12-2 run.

Neither team could (or would) defend the paint, resulting in 54 combined paint points and almost no fouls in the first half. Tyreke Evans hit two free throws in the final second to give the Pels a 55-54 lead going into halftime.

3rd Quarter

The energy that propelled the first-half scoring surge was gone by the start of the third quarter, and the Grizz offense suffered accordingly, missing 7 of their first 8 shots en route to a 11 point quarter. Tayshaun Prince handled the ball considerably more, which hasn't been a good thing for the Grizz lately, and the loose officiating made it hard for Memphis to get to the free throw line (it wasn't until the end of the 3rd quarter that a starter even attempted a FT).

The Pelicans slowly built a double-digit cushion while the Grizzlies offense deteriorated, taking an 82-65 lead into the final quarter.

4th Quarter

Jon Leuer and Ed Davis found some success in the fourth running pick and rolls/pick and pops with Mike Miller, and while the Pelicans offense lulled, the Grizzlies racked up a 15-3 run to pull within 6. With 3 minutes left, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley reentered the game, but the defense was unable to get stops down the stretch, with Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon combining for 45 points. The Grizz were unable to make a game of it in the final minute, taking a 104-98 loss in New Orleans.

Jon Leuer led the Grizzlies in scoring with 19 on 8/10 (!) shooting, including a 3. He is looking more and more comfortable in the offense and doesn't slouch on defense. If he can continue his efficient play off the bench, and especially if he can play with Ed Davis as well as he did tonight, Leuer will be extremely valuable for stretches of the regular season.

For the team as a whole, things weren't so bright. In one game, we saw the best and the worst of this season's offense. The first half was energetic and efficient, with guys moving off the ball and taking good shots. The second was lethargic, with one breakdown leading to another leading to an unrecoverable deficit. The Grizzlies also had just 1 fast break bucket, and it came in the final 90 seconds.

Injuries or not, the Grizzlies have yet to find a consistent groove through four quarters this season - tonight, they let a 10-point lead turn into a 19-point deficit in less than two quarters. It will be tough to reach the playoffs, let alone be competitive in them, if this continues.