NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Marc Gasol decided to be less analytical and more assertive on the offensive end. The Memphis Grizzlies liked the results.
Gasol scored a career-high 38 points to go with 13 rebounds and four blocks, and the Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 on Tuesday night. Gasol’s performance represented a significant departure from his previous five games, when he twice failed to score in double digits and never had more than 15 points.
"It’s been a tough week to 10 days as far as me playing and I wanted to take a different approach to the game and it worked," Gasol said. "I imposed a little bit my will. … Instead of trying to get somebody else going or trying to read and see what was in front of me, I just went ahead and tried to be a little more aggressive."
New Orleans lost despite the return of starting guard Tyreke Evans and top reserve Norris Cole. Evans was the Pelicans’ best offensive player with 20 points and 10 assists, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a Memphis squad that scored 52 points in the paint and missed only one of 26 free throws.
"It’s tough when you have two of your key guys come back and all the lineups are messed up and everybody’s trying to get back accustomed to one another," said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, whose team has dropped three straight. "But that’s not an excuse. We’ve still got to come out and play defensively. Offensively, we’ll be fine, but defensively we’ve got to come out and play a lot better than what we’re doing the past couple games."
Cole finished with 11 points but missed nine of 12 shots and was 2 of 7 from 3-point range.
Gasol was 11 of 22 from the field, scoring on everything from power moves inside to mid-range fades. He also set a new career mark by making all 16 of his foul shots.
"It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of. We were all rooting for him, man. Those are special nights," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. "When he’s aggressive like that, man, obviously you see what he’s capable of doing, and hopefully that starts a trend."
Zach Randolph added 14 points, while Courtney Lee and Matt Barnes scored 13 each.
Davis finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and career high-tying nine blocked shots for the Pelicans. But he struggled with his shooting, going 4 of 15 from the field and 8 of 13 on free throws.
SLOWING THE TEMPO
Early on, Memphis got baited into a high-scoring, up-tempo game by a Pelicans squad that was energized by the return of key players.
The Pelicans scored 38 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 14 on Cole’s 3 to start the second. Memphis then slowed the pace, played better defense and began to chip away, hitting 14 of its first 18 shots in the quarter. The Grizzlies needed about 7 minutes to erase their deficit, taking a 54-53 lead on Vince Carter’s tip-in.
After shooting 70 percent (14 of 20) in the first, the Pelicans went 8 of 22 in the second period.
"That was the key to winning the game," Gasol said. "If not, we were on pace to give up (152 points) and I don’t think we can keep up with that."
"We cannot keep trading baskets because we’re just not that good at it," he added.
IN THE CLUTCH
The Grizzlies trailed most of the first half and did not lead by more than six until the fourth quarter, when they were the more composed team and kept their lead between eight and 11 points most of the period.
"We’re a veteran team and we know when the game matters most," Conley said. "We got stops when we needed to and we limited them to one-shot opportunities."
Grizzlies: Mario Chalmers and Conley each scored 11. … Memphis outrebounded New Orleans 49-37. … Gasol’s rebound total was a season high.
Pelicans: Ryan Anderson scored 16, while Jrue Holiday had 12. … Coach Alvin Gentry started Alexis Ajinca at center over regular starter Omer Asik. Gentry said he wanted to see how spacing on the offensive end might change with Ajinca, who has better shooting range than Asik. Ajinca got in early foul trouble and played fewer than 13 minutes, but still scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.