MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s been an inauspicious first half of the season for the New Orleans Pelicans, but they’re heading home and into the All-Star break with at least a little hope.
In their last game before a week layoff, the Pelicans picked off the Grizzlies 95-91 behind Solomon Hill’s season-high 23 points. The win gave the Pelicans a 3-1 mark in their latest road trip, which also included wins against Phoenix and Minnesota.
“That’s what we needed,” Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said. “We had to put a string of wins together to give ourselves a chance.”
The Grizzlies opened the game on a 12-3 run, as the Pelicans looked like a team that was simply just ready to regroup during the All-Star break and make a play for the No. 8 spot in the West. New Orleans was three games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West, pending the Nuggets' game Wednesday against the Timberwolves.
But as they’ve been prone to do in the final week-and-a-half leading up to the All-Star weekend, they rallied. It’s much easier to do that, of course, when you shoot 55 percent in the first half, which the Pelicans did.
Perhaps most surprising Wednesday’s result is that it wasn’t punctuated by a brilliant Anthony Davis performance. Davis, who told reporters Tuesday that he views himself as the best young big man in the NBA, had a quiet night, scoring 18 points and pulling down seven rebounds.
The promising news was that his supporting cast — specifically Hill — did more than enough to make up for the rare off night from Davis. Hill repeatedly made the Grizzlies’ wing defenders pay, going 4-of-6 from 3-point territory.
Jrue Holiday, one of the consistent bright spots around Davis, poured in 19 points. Alexis Ajinca had his first double-double of the year (12 points and 10 rebounds) in a season-high 34 minutes.
“I thought Alexis gave us life,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “His minutes were as important as anybody’s. I thought he did a good job. He’s sat over there a long time and hadn’t played, but I think that’s just a testament to — you still have to keep yourself ready.”
The Grizzlies never make it easy, though; wins are hard-earned inside FedExForum. Though Memphis trailed by as many as 18, the Grizzlies cut it to one on two different occasions. First, after a Zach Randolph lay-in with less than four minutes left in the fourth, and then again with 48.5 seconds left when Vince Carter drilled an open 3-pointer.
Before Wednesday’s win, the Pelicans hadn’t strung together two consecutive wins since the beginning of the new year when they beat the Knicks and Nets back to back.
The Grizzlies cut the Pelicans’ deficit to 77-68 with 10 minutes remaining after Holiday picked up a technical foul for arguing a foul call that went against him. Two minutes later, he pushed the lead back to 10 with a corner 3-pointer.
Though it wasn’t a career performance from Davis, he still had an imprint on what was one of the Pelicans’ best wins of the season. He blocked a Marc Gasol runner late in the fourth and nailed a baseline jumper with 2:48 remaining.
After Carter’s 3, Davis responded with a contested 20-foot jumper with 38.8 seconds left.
Still, the Grizzlies had one final crack at sending the game into overtime after Holiday missed two free throws with 17 seconds remaining, but Mike Conley’s 3-pointer missed the rim completely.
“You’ve got to be satisfied,” Gentry said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of games to do it in. We just have to come back after the break and really be locked in. You can’t have any slip-ups or setbacks.”