Pelicans guards lead charge against Grizzlies

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans are nowhere close to full strength -- not with forward Anthony Davis out with a fractured finger and reserve guard Tyreke Evans leaving New Orleans Arena on crutches Friday night with a badly sprained ankle -- but they are finding ways to win.
It helps when you have one of the best NBA backcourts money can buy.
Guard Eric Gordon scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and backcourt mate Jrue Holiday added 20 points and 12 assists -- with no turnovers in 37 minutes -- to lift the Pelicans to a 104-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"Holiday and Gordon are two really good guards," Memphis coach David Joerger said, smiling. "Between them, they make $25 million a year, so you know they're good."
New Orleans coach Monty Williams said, "That's the Eric that I know can be an All-Star. And when he gets his mind right to playing defense, he's pretty good at that, too."
Gordon, who made 10 of 12 shots from the field, and Holiday took control after the Pelicans saw their 19-point lead in the fourth quarter shrink to 94-88 with 4:53 left on a 3-pointer by forward Mike Miller.
Gordon and Holiday combined for eight of the Pelicans' final 10 points as New Orleans (11-10) won its second consecutive home game before embarking on a five-game road trip.
Gordon played only 14 minutes in the first half despite making 3 of 4 shots from the field. He came out of the locker room with a scorer's mind-set in the second half.
"You've just got to step up and take the lead and take charge of the scoring," Gordon said. "We don't have AD (Anthony Davis) right now and Tyreke is probably going to be out -- who knows when he's going to be back? I'm up to the task and trying to lead the team in scoring.
"That's what we're going to need at this point. No matter how good we play defense and rebound, we've definitely got to score some baskets."
Holiday had a marvelously efficient game. The 20 points and 12 assists were gaudy enough, but Holiday might have been happiest by not committing a turnover. The Pelicans had just six the entire game.
"That's a good feeling," Holiday said. "I can go home and sleep tonight. I just think I made good decisions this game. I watched film yesterday and I had a couple of careless ones, and that's annoying and nagging. With a smart point guard like they have (Mike Conley), you can't turn the ball over."
The Pelicans used a 27-11 third quarter -- holding the Grizzlies without a field goal in the last 6:05 of the quarter -- to open an 82-65 lead. Memphis, which began the game by making 14 of 18 shots from the field, missed 16 of 20 shots in the third as the Pelicans logged their best defensive quarter of the season in holding Memphis to 11 points.
"In the second half, offensively, we decided to play one-on-one," Joerger said. "We over-dribbled and tried to create our own shots. We didn't cut and we didn't screen. They became the aggressors, and away they went."
Holiday and Gordon were the keys.
"They get a lot of space because of Ryan Anderson," Conley said. "When you go out to defend the 3, it leaves big lanes for their guards. Even without Anderson, they do a great job of penetrating."
Trailing 91-73, the Grizzlies used a 15-3 run during an 8:07 stretch of the fourth quarter to cut the New Orleans lead to 94-88 with 4:53 left, but they couldn't get any closer.
Evans aggravated a left ankle injury at the end of the half when he landed awkwardly on a layup attempt. He stayed in to make both free throws, giving the Pelicans a one-point lead at halftime, but did not return. He was limping badly in the locker room.
The Grizzlies (10-12) were led by forward Jon Leuer with 19 points and Conley with 18. Forward Zach Randolph started strong for Memphis with eight first-half points but got into foul trouble early in the second half and finished with 13.
NOTES: With SF Darius Miller fully recovered from a stress fracture in his foot, the Pelicans released SF Josh Childress, who signed on Nov. 12. Childress, a seven-year veteran, played in just four games and failed to score. ... The Pelicans are carrying only 14 players and have targeted a position to fill, but coach Monty Williams isn't tipping his hand. ... PF Anthony Davis is ramping up his practice routine while he recovers from a fractured left finger suffered Dec. 1, but Williams said he will be very careful about bringing the second-year player back. "He's chomping at the bit to get back," Williams said. "I want him as bad or more than anybody, but not at the expense of putting him in harm's way. He's amped up his workouts. He tries to do it behind my back. I won't give him the OK until we get that from the medical staff." ... The injury-ravaged Grizzlies got some relief on Friday night. G Tony Allen, who missed four consecutive games with a right hip contusion, returned to the lineup, as did F Ed Davis, who was sidelined for three games with a sprained left ankle.

What to Read Next