Pelicans, Grizzlies much different than last meeting
The New Orleans Pelicans return to the scene of their Opening Night disappointment when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Both teams look a whole lot different than when they last squared off almost three months ago, when Mike Conley led the Grizzlies to a 103-91 win with 27 points.
Memphis, which has made the playoffs each of the past seven years, opened the season 7-4. But the Grizzlies lost Conley to an Achilles injury two games later, and have since plummeted to near the bottom of the Western Conference at 12-27.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans, who have reached the postseason just once in the last six seasons, struggled offensively early on, scoring 100 or more points just four times in their first 10 games.
But veteran point guard Rajon Rondo made his season debut four games later, and New Orleans has since ridden a high-powered attack into Western playoff position at 20-19.
Rondo had 12 points and 15 assists on Monday night when the Pelicans held on for a 112-109 home win over the Detroit Pistons.
The type of depth that was seriously lacking when Anthony Davis (33) and DeMarcus Cousins (28) combined for 61 of the 91 points on Opening Night was a difference-maker against Detroit.
Davis (30) and Cousins (20) accounted for 50 of the 112 points, but got productive complementary assistance not only from Rondo but also E'Twaun Moore (23 points) and Jrue Holiday (14).
That depth will have to be on display Wednesday night as the Pelicans almost surely will be without Davis, who sprained his right ankle in the third quarter of the win over Detroit.
Davis was injured when he landed awkwardly after leaping for an alley-oop lob.
X-rays taken Tuesday were negative, but Davis likely will have to sit out for the sixth time this season, with the Pelicans having won three of the first five.
"We've done it and we've won games without him this year, so that gives the team confidence right there," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry boasted. "Obviously, we would rather have him in the game. But if he goes out, I think it's great that our guys can maintain what we're trying to do."
The Grizzlies haven't played since Friday, when they returned home from a generally successful Western swing and lost 102-100 to the Washington Wizards.
Three of the Grizzlies' last five losses have been by just two points and another was a competitive effort at Golden State during the club's 2-3 trip, all things interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff consider to be a positive.
"I do believe our team has gotten much better," he claimed. "We were at a point where we'd have two quarters where we didn't play well. Now it's at the point where it's two or three minutes in a quarter when we have those lapses. There's improvement.
"We're just searching to fix in those two minutes what play needs to be made. Do we need to get a stop? Do we need to get a 50/50 ball, make the extra pass, take a better shot? So, it's becoming smaller areas that we need to improve on."
As the Grizzlies continue to wait for Conley to return -- it could happen by the end of the month -- the club has ridden Tyreke Evans to its improved results of late.
Evans has poured in 20 or more points 11 times in his last 14 games, during which he has averaged 23.3 points while shooting 47 percent overall and 40 percent on 3-pointers.
Memphis has beaten New Orleans in eight of their last 10 meetings.
Updated January 10, 2018