Less than two weeks ago the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the visiting Memphis Grizzlies 118-109.
It was the Pelicans’ third win in what would become the best four-game win streak of the season.
But the promise New Orleans showed during that streak has faded when it visits Memphis on Tuesday night.
The Pelicans will complete a four-game road trip that has featured three losses and three poor defensive performances.
“You’re going to have nights where you’re not pitching well,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You’re going to have to support yourself in your defense, and we can’t. We can’t support ourselves in our defense right now. That’s a problem.”
Chicago and Dallas each scored 25 triples and scored 129 and 143 points, respectively, in double-digit wins before Detroit beat the Pelicans 123-112 on Sunday. The Pistons easily overcame New Orleans’ 40-30 lead after one quarter and finally made 17 of 35 3-pointers and shot 53.6 percent from the field.
“It was more than the triples,” Van Gundy said. “We were just being shaken by the dribble. Nobody blocked. We just didn’t compete as hard as they did.”
Van Gundy said his two best players, forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, were showing signs of fatigue. He said he will assess how many minutes they are playing as well as all other aspects of his staff usage.
“I’m not saying we’re going to make changes,” Van Gundy said, “(but) I don’t think we can just mindlessly put the same guys out there.”
In the first meeting between the Pelicans and Grizzlies, Memphis’ Jonas Valanciunas returned from a five-game absence due to COVID-19 protocols and scored 23 points in 24 minutes. He had 25 points and 13 rebounds in a 124-110 win at Sacramento on Sunday night.
It was Valanciunas’ fourth 20-point game in five games since his return, which includes three double-doubles. In those last five games, he is averaging 21.8 points and 12.6 rebounds.
“(Valanciunas) is a beast,” said forward Brandon Clarke, who returned from a four-game absence due to a sore calf to score 13 points against Sacramento. “It’s a really tough matchup for almost every team every night.”
Ja Morant (16 points, 10 assists), Dillon Brooks (22 points) and Kyle Anderson (17 points) were also among the seven Grizzlies who scored in double figures as the team won for the second time in seven games.
“Our guys were great on the entire roster,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Our headlines set the tone for us early on. Our defensive activity set us an offensive tone. Our bench came in, gave us tremendous minutes. It was definitely one of our best games from start to finish.”
The Grizzlies, who have lost four straight games to New Orleans, are starting a four-game streak at home in six days.
“As long as we keep moving forward, let’s keep getting better,” Morant said, “I feel like once we play a full 48 (minutes) of Grizzlies basketball, (we’ll be) a tough team to beat.”
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.