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The Long View: New Orleans has Memphis’ number right now

Last night’s Grizzlies and Pelicans game highlighted what they need to ask themselves going forward, and what the Grizzlies are missing right now.

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New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

It’s quite simple. This isn’t a rivalry, the New Orleans Pelicans have the Memphis Grizzlies’ number.

In last night’s game the Grizzlies didn’t have an answer for Zion Williamson, scoring 31 points on just 16 shots. Brandon Ingram attacked with his scoring (22 points) and his playmaking (7 assists). The role players, particularly Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball, found their range from deep.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies really struggled to get anything going beyond Ja Morant (28 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Kyle Anderson (19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists). They weren’t connecting on their outside shots, and the offense stagnated at times.

Ultimately, at this stage, the Pelicans pose difficult matchups for the Grizzlies. It starts with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but the size and speed on the wings and in the backcourt make them a tough defensive matchup there as well.

The Pelicans have their number right now. So how can the Grizzlies eventually turn the corner on this team?

A lot of it comes down to when Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. return. Defensively, they could be foils to the Pelicans dynamic duo, as Winslow has the size and physicality to contend with Ingram, and Jackson’s size and length should pose some problems for Zion.

Offensively, they also alleviate pressure off Morant — and as we saw, they needed an extra punch around the talented young guard. Jackson saw success against Williamson last season, notching 22 points and 2 blocks in their lone matchup. His inside-out game with his budding ball-handling will be an asset against them down the road. With Winslow, he gets Ja Morant off the ball, and he can provide offensive stability whenever the starting point guards off the floor.

Even then, playing guys like De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane over John Konchar and Sean McDermott would’ve helped in this game too. Their defense could’ve prevented this prolonged explosion, but they’re also the 2 of the 3 best 3-point shooters on the team by the percentages.

The sky isn’t falling, but this game highlighted a question that’s going to be relevant in a couple years when both teams are ready for deep playoff runs... What do you have to do to match up with them down the road? This is a question that’ll be relevant for teams like New Orleans, Phoenix, Dallas, and Denver. Mainly, it comes down to finding the right matchups to these players, and having enough firepower alongside their cornerstones.

The Memphis Grizzlies will be fine, and last night’s game won’t define the long-term outlook of these divisional foes. It just highlights questions that’ll need to be answered down the road, and who they’re missing.

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