Pelicans face Grizzlies hoping to improve home performance
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans made franchise history this week by having Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins named as starters for the NBA All-Star Game.
Now Pelicans fans are wondering if that history will pay off with a future worth watching.
Despite the boxcar scoring and rebounding numbers the Twin Towers have posted this season, the Pelicans still are just 23-21 entering Saturday night’s game against the 16-28 Memphis Grizzlies, who have beaten New Orleans twice this season in Memphis and in nine of their previous 11 meetings.
Although their record is the Pelicans’ best at this point of the season since 2011, they have been a confounding team, beating the elite of the NBA while losing at an alarming rate to sub-.500 teams.
After recording overtime road victories over the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics behind monster performances by Davis — a combined 93 points and 33 rebounds — the Pelicans blew a 16-point halftime lead at Atlanta on Wednesday night and lost 94-93, snapping a three-game winning streak.
The Pelicans are a respectable 12-12 on the road but only 11-9 at home, and that has bothered coach Alvin Gentry.
“We would like our record to be a little better,” Gentry said. “We keep talking about taking care of business at home. We’ve got to be much better at home than .500. We’ve got to make sure we have some separation from the .500 situation.”
“We don’t want to win in spurts,” Cousins said. “We want to win when we’re supposed to win. We’re still trying to find that consistency. We want to be the team we want to be at all times, not just when it’s the big games.”
Davis and Cousins have proven that two big men with rare offensive skills can work together seamlessly. Davis ranks fourth in the league in scoring (26.7), seventh in field-goal percentage (.577), eighth in rebounding (10.5) and third in blocks (2.08).
Cousins, meanwhile, is sixth in scoring (25.3), third in rebounding (12.7) and seventh in blocks (1.57). His biggest shortcoming has been handling the ball, averaging a league-worst 5.0 turnovers a game.
At times, though, the Davis-Cousins combo has been stunning. This is Cousins’ first time as an All-Star starter and Davis’ third starting appearance. Davis has made five All-Star teams and Cousins has made four.
“The biggest question was, was it going to work? I think we just proved that it is and it can work,” Davis said. “But it’s a testament to our hard work. We like each other, we feel like we complement each other. Just having those two All-Star spots taken up by us is huge for us as players, for our team and the organization.”
“What it shows is both those guys are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team,” Gentry said. “Both of those guys are willing to leave a little bit of their game off the floor so that the other guy can be good. They’re willing to do whatever is necessary to be successful.”
Despite their disappointing record, the Grizzlies won their third consecutive game Friday night, defeating the Sacramento Kings 106-88 by outscoring the Kings 66-48 in the second half. Rookie Dillon Brooks scored a career-high 22 points.
“We’ve got a of competitors on this team, from top to bottom,” Dillon said. “Guys want to play their role and win. Everyone’s focused on coming into work and getting their work in. We’re not thinking about tanking; we’re thinking about winning.”
In two home games against New Orleans this season, former Pelican guard Tyreke Evans has averaged 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, and Marc Gasol has averaged 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. The Grizzlies beat New Orleans 103-91 in the season-opener on Oct. 18 and 105-102 on Jan. 10.