The Pelicans (4-14) are nearing full health, but the return of a couple key players was not enough tonight. The Memphis Grizzlies (11-8) were able to withstand an early barrage of offense to pull out the 113-104 win.
Now, I know that basketball is a 48 minute game and every minute counts just as much as the next. But the first quarter the Pelicans played tonight rises above the rest of the game for me.
Unfortunately they could not translate their 38 point first frame into a win, but they showed just how prolific they can be when the pieces start to fit.
Dec 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives past Memphis Grizzlies forward Jeff Green (32) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans won the first quarter 38-27 thanks to a stunning offensive display. As a team they shot 14-20 from the field, 3-5 from three point range and 7-8 from the free throw line.
Even better, 10 of the 14 makes were assisted with 6 different players dishing at least 1 dime, and 9 of the 10 players to take the court managed at least one point.
That is just about as well rounded as you can be on offense. Sure 70% from the field may be unsustainable, but the work done to create those shots is far from it.
For the entire quarter, all five guys on the floor were constantly moving off the ball, setting picks, finding space, creating chaos and hitting the open man. With two high level distributors in the starting lineup in Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the ball was constantly finding the best shot.
Jan 9, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
As the game wore on, this constant energy slowly faded. As a result, the scoring totals for the Pels dipped in every quarter.
In fact, their 39 point second half was the worst they have had all season. That is a bummer for sure, but the first twelve minutes of this game were enough to help me stay optimistic moving forward.
Even the most optimistic of people would not have predicted this kind of season debut from Tyreke Evans.
After missing the first 17 games of the season while recovering from surgery, he returned to the Pelicans backcourt with a vengeance.
His first shot attempt of the season came from behind the arc fairly early in the shot clock, a scenario that has not been kind to Evans during his career. But he sank this one, and that proved to be a sign of things to come.
He finished with 20 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover in 31 minutes of action. Based on reports coming from the Pelicans it appeared that Evans would be limited in terms of his minutes, but he looked just like Tyreke for the duration of his game time.
Since Gentry signed on to be head coach, the prospect of Evans taking a big leap has been floated around quite a bit. If he keeps this up, that might just ring true.
Tyreke may have led the Pels in scoring, but he was far from leading all scorers. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol tallied a career high 38 points on 11-22 shooting from the field and a perfect 16-16 from the free throw line.
The former Defensive Player of the Year was red hot tonight, knocking down almost all of his open looks.
He and Zach Randolph are so good at knocking down outside shots that it becomes nearly impossible for the Pelicans to regain possession without taking a hit on the scoreboard.
They either contest the shot and leave the paint empty for a rebound, or leave them wide open and watch them drain it. When Gasol was as hot as he was tonight, there is really not much a team can do to stop him.
Dec 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans must work on their team rebounding as the season continues to progress. They lost the battle on the glass tonight 49-37, a huge factor especially against a team like the Grizzlies.
If Alvin Gentry continues to play Anthony Davis at center (Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca combined for 18 minutes), Ryan Anderson and company need to be able to battle on the glass and secure the other team’s misses, or they will never be able to get stops.
All in all, tonight was a big step forward for this Pelicans team.
They could not come away with the win, but they were able to put out competitive lineups that simply have not gotten to play together yet.
As Tyreke Evans continues to get back into the fold, the prospects of this season are bound to swing in a positive direction.
The Pelicans take the court again tomorrow night against the Houston Rockets on NBA TV….