The Grizzlies entered Tuesday night at an 11-11 record, but more importantly they were about to begin a four game in five night stretch that will likely play a big role in how the rest of their season plays out. And of course, there is no better opponent to get the Grizzlies and their fans motivated for some fun and enjoyable basketball than the New Orleans Pelicans.
Both the Grizzlies and Pelicans got off to a bit of a slow start, but the pace was not expected to be slow for long. Both teams went back and forth, but two Brandon Ingram threes gave New Orleans an early lead. However, Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant found early success with six points a piece of their own to get a 21-14 lead. Morant continued finding success in the paint, as through the first eight minutes of the game, Morant produced 10 points and three assists.
The Grizzlies would extend the lead to as much as eleven at 30-19, but the Pelicans continued to chip away. Though the Grizzlies did well to keep Zion Williamson silent for the first ten minutes of the quarter, Zion had two straight and-1’s in less than a minute and the Pelicans went on a 10-2 run to end the quarter and make the score 32-29 in favor of Memphis. The Pelicans and Grizzlies would get off to another slow initial start to the second quarter, as both teams experienced missed looks and turnovers.
Williamson and Kyle Anderson quickly decided to change the narrative with four points apiece to keep Memphis ahead by three. Sean Mcdermott found a good look from three to extend the lead to six, then another Pelicans turnover allowed Memphis to get it out to eight. However, Memphis simply had no answer for Williamson, as he single handedly got the Pelicans back to within two points. A Josh Hart three allowed the Pelicans to complete a 10-0 run to regain the lead, 49-48. The Pelicans were not done, as they continued to find success off of Grizzlies turnovers and from three. The end result was a 24-10 run and a 63-58 halftime lead for the Pelicans.
The Grizzlies usual advantages through points off turnovers, in the paint, and off assists was simply not present as second quarter struggles cancelled out another strong start. Allowing Zion Williamson to score 15 points over an eight minute stretch, while Josh Hart also quietly matched Williamson with 15 of his own, including 3-5 from three. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Ja Morant had his best scoring half since they returned to play on 1/30/2021 with 15 points and three assists. The key for the Grizzlies in the second half would be for one or two players to step up their scoring to support Morant, defending the three, and taking care of the ball.
Kyle Anderson got off to another hot start in the third quarter with eight quick points for Memphis. However, the Pelicans were able to match his success with Ingram and Williamson continuing to find their looks. The overall pace of the game certainly picked up for both teams early in the second half. The Pelicans continued to find success finding Williamson in various matchups, and led 77-73 halfway through the third quarter. The Grizzlies continued to have trouble taking care of the ball, and the Pelicans extended the lead to eight points. A Hart three extended the lead to eleven, which then became fourteen once again thanks to Zion Williamson. The Grizzlies simply did not have an answer for Williamson in the second and third quarter. Unfortunately, the struggles were not over for Memphis. A flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke followed by back to back threes by J.J. Reddick resulted in a 101-81 lead for New Orelans heading into the fourth quarter.
Though the Grizzlies found a few early fourth quarter buckets, Hart and Williamson were again able to respond. A Williamson alley-oop was sandwiched in between a layup and And-1 conversion by Morant. The fourth quarter simply turned into a Ja-Zion show has both continued to trade buckets. While fourth quarter Ja was fun to see back in action, the Pelicans were simply swapping twos for threes, as they once against pulled ahead by 23 at a 127-104 score. The Pelicans simply could not miss for the rest of the game, and the final score would be 144-113. It was one of the worst defensive performances in the history of the franchise, as this was the second highest point total ever allowed by the Grizzlies in a single game.
A silver lining to this game was another impressive performance from Kyle Anderson, and of course, a needed return to form for Ja Morant. However, just an absolutely putrid performance from the Grizzlies defense plus the inability to take care of the ball could not be overcome. The good thing about such a congested part of the schedule is it allows you to simply forget tonight and move on.
That is what the Grizzlies will need to do to make sure they do not have a bad week of play at a time when it is clearly not needed.