Slumping Grizzlies start slow, fall to Pelicans in the Bayou
NEW ORLEANS — Tyreke Evans was removed from New Orleans’ starting lineup, and then finished off the Memphis Grizzlies.
Evans had 21 points and 10 rebounds Friday night, leading the Pelicans to a 106-95 victory.
"I know my role and I’m comfortable with the guys out there, so I just go out there and try to make it work," Evans said.
Evans said the lineup change resulted from a meeting involving coach Monty Williams, fellow shooting guard Eric Gordon and point guard Jrue Holiday in which they discussed strategies that might improve the production of the backcourt now that Gordon had worked his way back from a shoulder injury.
Williams chose to make 6-foot-8 Dante Cunningham the starting small forward, leave Gordon in the starting lineup and have the 6-6 Evans come off the bench at guard.
"Coach said he thinks that I’m better coming off of the bench because of what I can do with the ball," Evans said. "If that’s going to make us balance out better, I’m going to do it. I’m a team-first type of guy, so I just want us to win."
The Grizzlies lost their second straight — and sixth in their last 10 — despite the return of power forward Zach Randolph from right knee soreness that sidelined him for nine games. The defeat dropped Memphis (25-11) out of first place in the Southwest Division, leaving it right behind Dallas (26-11).
"We want to be consistent with our scheme, with our effort, with our execution — we’re neither of those," said Memphis center Marc Gasol, who had 19 points. "Without that, it’s hard to win games. It’s really, really hard."
"We’ve been playing like this for the past 10 days or two weeks," Gasol added. "We’ve been sliding a little bit from what we do."
Holiday had 23 points and eight assists for New Orleans, which had four players hit the 20-point mark and led throughout. Anthony Davis had 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and Ryan Anderson, who hit four 3-pointers, also scored 20 points.
Mike Conley scored 19 points for Memphis, while Randolph finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
New Orleans hit 10 of 20 3-point attempts, including three 3s for Gordon, who finished with 13 points. The Pelicans had dropped two in a row.
Tayshaun Prince, who missed his first five shots, hit a pair of late 3s to pull Memphis as close as 101-93 with 1:33 to go, but Evans responded with a driving reverse layup as he was fouled by Prince.
"I just like the ball in my hands," Evans said. "I create and I can find guys, get to the basket and I think I’m most dangerous that way. So when it’s that time in the game, I just like to go get the ball and be aggressive."
Davis scored 10 in the third quarter, highlighted by his dribble drive around Randolph along the baseline for a soaring one-handed jam over the late-arriving Kosta Koufos.
New Orleans made 10 of 20 shots in the opening quarter and raced to a 31-19 lead.
Evans scored nine in the second quarter, including a fast-break basket during which Courtney Lee fouled him by vigorously trying to pull Evans’ arms apart as the powerful shooting guard went up for the shot.
Holiday’s steal and layup moments before halftime put the Pelicans up 52-39.
Grizzlies: Prince, whose name has come up in recent trade speculation, played nearly 25 minutes and finished with six points, three rebounds and two assists. … Swingman Quincy Pondexter, whose name also has been mentioned in trade speculation, did not play. … Memphis had won the only previous meeting this season on Nov. 3.
Pelicans: The Pelicans improved to 12-5 at home in what was their third wire-to-wire victory this season — all at home. The others came against Minnesota and Houston.