MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph had to leave Wednesday night’s game against New Orleans because his fiancee went into labor.
His teammates may have been jealous they had to watch the rest of a debacle at FedExForum.
The Grizzlies (2-3) were manhandled by the New Orleans Pelicans, 99-84. New Orleans (2-3) was coming off a deflating home loss against Phoenix Tuesday, but not deflating enough not to hand a Southwest division foe another turnover-plagued loss. It came in front of a considerable number of boos from the 15,209 in attendance.
Here are three hits from a loss that continued to leave the Western Conference finalist trying to figure itself out with a new coach and new players.
1. Memphis got behind early … again.
In its two previous losses, Memphis trailed by as many as 21 at San Antonio and 21 at Dallas. Turns out it wasn’t just a Texas thing. New Orleans built a 29-point lead Wednesday. Memphis’ biggest lead against the Pelicans was two. The Grizzlies haven’t had more than a 10-point lead all season.
First-year coach Dave Joerger wants a quicker-paced offense, but first needs a faster start.
“It’s important for us to get off to a quick start,” Joerger said. “We were down and down and down and just couldn’t get it back to a point earlier in the second half where it was manageable.”
Some booed and some headed for the exits after the third quarter ended with Memphis down 22. New Orleans scored the first seven in the fourth quarter.
Point guard Mike Conley left in the fourth quarter after taking an elbow to the face. But not before hearing the boos.
“It hurts a lot,” Conley said. “It hurts a lot because we’ve come a long way. We’ve come a very long way in my six years here and I remember the boos as a rookie and my second and third year.
“I don’t ever want to go back to it … it brings back memories. I definitely get angry and want to do better.”
Conley finished with a game-high 26 points. Marc Gasol was the only other player in double figures with 11.
2. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers …
Memphis’ 18 turnovers — which led to 22 points — were not a new problem.
Memphis is averaging more than 17 turnovers per game. The Grizzlies trailed 33-18 after a quarter, a quarter that left them with eight turnovers and New Orleans shooting 70 percent.
“Just play with a little bit more sense of urgency, if we make a mistake, move on and just get back on defense. Everybody is working hard. We’re still figuring it out,” center Kosta Koufos said. “We are confident we can have a successful season still.”
Back-to-back turnovers and an Eric Gordon 3-pointer gave New Orleans a 24-14 lead. A turnover had already forced a timeout.
When the Grizzlies weren’t turning it over, they were struggling against second-year center Anthony Davis. The former Kentucky Wildcat scored 18 points, had nine rebounds and three steals. He also blocked three shots.
“We play a few minutes and make three or four turnovers and we kind of hang our heads a little bit,” Gasol said. “We need to be more patient and keep playing the right way and just don’t let down.”
3. Too little, too late, but there were positives.
Randolph left midway through the second quarter. Reserve guard Jerryd Bayless left in the second half with a right knee sprain.
Somehow, without Randolph, Gasol managed only one rebound. But there were positives.
Joerger said though it resulted in a few turnovers, he was glad to see more passes inside from the wings.
Mike Miller hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter and had five of his six rebounds. He played all 12 minutes. Rookie Jamaal Franklin came in and provided a spark, as Memphis reserves rallied against New Orleans’ starters.
That’s why Memphis wanted Miller back, much-needed outside shooting. It’s paying off. Wednesday, it just happened to come in the middle of a blowout. It took a 16-0 run just to cut the Pelicans lead to 12 with 4:25 left.
Memphis cut what was an 18-point lead in the first half to 47-39, but New Orleans opened the second half on an 8-1 run.
Memphis has outscored its opponent in the fourth quarter in four of five games, but trailed after the third quarter in all five.
“It’s too early in the season to try to make assessments on any team, unless you’re undefeated,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “I’m sure they are having an adjustment period like we are. You go through that when you have so many new players and a new coach.”