NEW ORLEANS (AP) The Pelicans thought Tyreke Evans was being unselfish to a fault, and they told him so at halftime as they pondered how to overcome a double-digit deficit against one of the best teams in the NBA.
So Evans starting driving hard to the basket, staggering the Memphis Grizzlies into their worst collapse of the season.
Evans scored 26 points, putting up nearly flawless second-half numbers of 15 points, five assists and no turnovers, and New Orleans rallied from 18 points down to beat Memphis 95-89 on Saturday night.
”Coach (Monty Williams) told me to start being aggressive and that’s when I looked for my lanes and started attacking the basket,” Evans said. ”I just thought it was time to take over.”
Anthony Davis had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for New Orleans, and said Evans’ halftime adjustment changed everything.
In the first half, Davis said, Evans ”was trying to drive and find guys and wasn’t as aggressive as he usually is, and it kind of messed him up and messed other guys up.”
”I told him coming out of halftime – and Coach said it – `Even though I told you guys to play together, don’t let that take away from what you do,” Davis recalled. ”So he went back to (being) Tyreke, attacking the basket, making layups and it opened it up for everybody else.”
Memphis coach David Joerger was in no mood to explain what happened to his team, which had not previously blown a lead larger than 14 points this season. As he stepped into the hallway outside the visitor’s locker room, he asked if there were questions, but then walked back into the locker room without comment before reporters could get a word out.
”If we want to be a good team, a championship team, we can’t play like that,” Memphis forward Zach Randolp said. ”We’re still learning, still got a lot of work to do.”
The Grizzlies were close down the stretch, but the Pelicans made the clutch plays to win for the seventh time in nine games and pull a half-game behind Oklahoma City for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Eric Gordon scored 16 points, including two free throws with 24.5 seconds left. Norris Cole added 12 points and his defense forced Mike Conley into an air ball on a 3-point attempt with 11 seconds left.
Omer Asik grabbed 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, including one after Evans’ missed free throw with 9 seconds left.
Jeff Green had 20 points for Memphis, but missed a free throw with 26.5 seconds left. Conley had 17 points and Beno Udrih 11 for the Grizzlies, who hurt themselves with 10 missed free throws.
Down by 12 at halftime, the Pelicans surged in front by outscoring Memphis 33-17 in the third quarter. Evans, who hit two driving layups during a 7-0 run to open the period, scored 12 during the quarter. Davis added 10 points in the period on 5-of-7 shooting. New Orleans held Memphis to 30.8 percent (4 for 13) in the quarter.
”It was a growth moment for us,” Cole said. ”We understood that we dug ourselves into a hole, but we didn’t try to make any hero plays. We took it one possession at a time, defended well, got the rebounds and executed offensively.”
New Orleans tied it on Gordon’s bank shot as he was fouled, then took their first lead on Gordon’s 3 soon after.
The Grizzlies regained their composure and even briefly regained the lead when Udrih’s jumper made it 78-77 with 7:20 to go.
Grizzlies: Marc Gasol blocked five shots. … Tony Allen had six steals. … Memphis fell to 0-2 in New Orleans this season.
Pelicans: New Orleans (34-29) has match last season’s win total. … The Pelicans tied their largest comeback of the season. … The Pelicans turned it over 18 times, but also converted 14 Memphis turnovers into 20 points.
New Orleans turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter. The Pelicans then missed their first six shots of the second quarter, during which Memphis scored eight straight points to take a 15-point lead.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 18 in the second quarter when Green hit a layup to make it 41-23. The Pelicans briefly cut it to 10 before Gasol’s turnaround fade made it 50-38 at halftime.