NEW ORLEANS — A night after struggling, but beating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies lost a game they theoretically shouldn’t have lost, 95-89 to the playoff-hungry Pelicans.
1. Championship teams can’t have that lapse
Since Feb. 6, the Grizzlies have lost at Minnesota, Sacramento, home to Utah and now again at New Orleans (106-95 on Jan. 9).
Memphis (44-18) was in control in the first half; up as many as 18 points. But it collapsed in the third quarter as New Orleans shot nearly 50 percent and scored 33 points to take a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.
"They hit shots," Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph said. "Give them a lot of credit. They hit shots. We didn’t. If we want to be a good team, a championship team, we can’t play like that. Still learning. Still got a lot to do."
Center Marc Gasol echoed the sentiment. Before that, coach Dave Joerger silently echoed it. Joerger didn’t answer any questions in the postgame press conference.
Not because he wasn’t willing, but because there weren’t any.
"We came out flat, not executing, not screening, not running back, too many mistakes," Gasol said. "We don’t do those things, we lose."
Gasol and Randolph shot a combined 5 of 17 for 15 points and had a combined nine rebounds, seven of them to Gasol, who also had six assists.
New Orleans (34-29) was shooting 40 percent at the half and hit 23 of 42 shots in the second half. The Pelicans shot 47.5 percent for the game.
"Everybody’s got to be tied together. I feel like we’ve been talking about the same thing over and over again for the past eight, 10 games," Gasol said. "But that’s the way it has to be."
2. Grizzlies make it a home game
When Randolph left the floor for the locker room before the game, there were huge cheers. That’s because a multitude of Grizzlies fans made the trip.
Especially, but not limited to the two sections behind the Grizzlies bench that made their presence felt, arguably as loud early on as the home crowd.
"We could see the support and the belief they have in us," point guard Mike Conley said. "It’s fun to travel and see the support from many different states and different cities. That’s awesome."
When Vince Carter entered in the second quarter, he immediately hit a 3-pointer to another loud cheer. When Nick Calathes followed with a layup, New Orleans walked into a timeout, down 15 thanks to an 8-0 run, and their home crowd dressed in Grizzlies blue and cheering.
One fan went old school with a "Big Country" Bryant Reeves Vancouver jersey.
Things didn’t get loud until the Pelicans made their run in the third.
It would be easier probably to appreciate in a win and some were likely New Orleans natives with a Grizzlies nature, but there were also plenty who made the 400-mile trip.
3. Nobody wants New Orleans in the playoffs
Anthony Davis is scary. And that is a dangerous team lingering around the eight-seed in the West, a half-game back of Oklahoma City.
"They have length inside. They do a good job of taking away the paint," Gasol said. "They force you to take jump shots."
And a combination of not making those jump shots and Tyreke Evans giving the Pels 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting is not a winning combination, be it at Smoothie King or FedExForum.
At one point in the third quarter, Memphis had made seven free throws and no field goals and New Orleans had scored 22 of its 33 points.
The Grizzlies made 13 of 33 shots in the second half. They did have an out-of-place 19 fast-break points, but were outscored 42-40 in the paint, seven below their league-leading average. New Orleans is second, entering the game one point below the Grizzlies in that stat.
"Nothing new to us. Of course when we don’t screen, don’t execute and we allow five guys in the paint, it’s a lot tougher for us to maneuver in there," Gasol said, "to drive in the paint, to get easier shots, but also defensively. Like I said, it feels like we have answered the same questions after every game, but it starts on defense. When we play ‘D, everybody plays ‘D at the same time, everybody talks, communicates, we’re a different team.
"When we (don’t), we’re average or below average."
STATS THAT MATTER
3: In his first game against Grizzlies since being traded, Quincy Pondexter scored three points on 1 of 4 shooting.
10: The Grizzlies missed 10 free throws, converting on 19 of their 29 trips to the line.
"Let’s just do away with the first half and the film session." — Pelicans coach Monty Williams on New Orleans’ broken film machine at halftime
"In the third quarter, they hit a lot of tough shots. And that was the game," — Grizzlies PF Zach Randolph