Pelicans use killer instinct to bury Grizzlies

Don Wade, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The New Orleans Pelicans were used to giving up halftime leads. The Memphis Grizzlies trailed in every game this season going into the fourth quarter, yet rallied to win two of those four games.
But Wednesday night at FedExForum, the Grizzlies weren't even in the same ZIP code as the Pelicans, who led by 22 points going into the fourth quarter and won 99-84.
"We made a conscientious effort to have that killer instinct and not let up," said Pelicans center Jason Smith, who with 10 points was one of five New Orleans players to score in double-figures. "We've been in that position before, having the lead at halftime."
Thy have been in that position as recently as Tuesday night at home against the Phoenix Suns.
"We have a resilient group that hates losing," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "They hate the feeling of letting each other down or letting me down."
On Wednesday, the young Pelicans (2-3) got a strong performance from 20-year-old power forward Anthony Davis, who finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Davis was part of the Pelicans' fast start as he scored seven points as New Orleans raced out to 33-18 first-quarter lead. The Pelicans made 13 of their first 16 shots, but the transition offense sprang from their defense.
"We came out with a lot of defensive intensity," Davis said.
That set up three fast-break baskets in the opening quarter. For the game, New Orleans outscored Memphis 17-8 on fastbreak buckets. Although the Grizzlies outscored the Pelicans 50-34 in the paint, the Pelicans had their share of easy looks from all over the floor in shooting 48.7 percent from the field (38 of 78).
Memphis shooting guard Tony Allen, voted the best perimeter defender in the league in the recent general managers' survey, said: "We're just too tied to our own man. We gotta be tied together (defensively)."
Guard Eric Gordon led New Orleans with 19 points, and guard Tyreke Evans scored 16 off the bench. Memphis point guard Mike Conley scored a game-high 26 points, but he didn't get much help and he went down hard with 8:10 left in the game and did not return. He took three stitches below his eye and is expected to be fine.
Center Marc Gasol (11 points) was the only other Memphis player in double figures. Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph left the arena in the first half to be with his fiancee, who was in labor. Without him, the Grizzlies (2-3) tried to contain Davis with forwards Ed Davis and Jon Leuer. It didn't work.
"Gasol and Randolph play so well together, I felt Gasol missed Randolph a little bit," Smith said.
Through their first four games, the Grizzlies were averaging 32.3 points in the fourth quarter, the second-highest average in the league. They scored 27 Wednesday and had a late run that got them within nine, 93-84, with 2:32 to play when swingman Mike Miller hit a 3-pointer.
But the Pelicans led by as many as 29 in the final frame and the hill was too steep. Memphis is now 0-3 against Southwest Division opponents. Although the Pelicans were the ones on the road and playing on the second night of a back-to-back, they were the more energetic team.
"If we lost tonight giving the effort we normally give ... we would have been fine with that," Conley said. "But we were never really in the game."
Just months removed from a run to the Western Conference Finals, the Grizzlies also heard a chorus of boos at the end of the third quarter.
"It hurts a lot because we've come a long way in my six years here and I remember the boos (early on)," Conley said.
Pelicans small forward Al-Farouq Aminu said this was a victory that can provide some momentum.
"Use this one to build," Aminu said.
NOTES: Pelicans PF Anthony Davis was second in the NBA in blocks (4.25 per game) through four games, and New Orleans was holding opponents to a league-best 34.0 points in the paint. Davis also was averaging 22.0 points per game and 12.0 rebounds. Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger likes the 20-year-old's whole game. "He's special. He's got a great career ahead of him," Joerger said. ... New Orleans forwards Ryan Anderson (broken toe) and Darius Miller (injured left foot) were inactive. ... Through four games, Memphis SG Tony Allen was tied for fourth in the league with 3.0 steals per game. "You can't think about who he is as a defender," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said, referring to opposing offensive players. "You've got to play your game. When you're playing against a guy like Tony Allen, he's going to try and take something away from you."

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