Playing against the NBA’s top defensive team, the New Orleans Pelicans struggled to score, losing 93-81 to the Grizzlies on Monday night in Memphis, Tennessee.
It was the Pelicans’ second consecutive loss, both to Southwest Division teams. Memphis, off to a franchise-best 4-0 start, also set a record with its 16th consecutive home victory.
Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, in foul trouble in the first half, failed to get a double-double for the first time, getting 14 points and eight rebounds.
New Orleans was led by Tyreke Evans, who had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
However, the Pelicans, who return home Tuesday to play the Charlotte Hornets, shot 32.7 percent from the field, getting just two fast-break points. Memphis shot 40.6 percent.
“We shot terrible,” Davis said. “We couldn’t make shots. The ball just couldn’t go in the bucket.”
Center Marc Gasol led Memphis with 19 points and nine rebounds, and power forward Zach Randolph had 15 and 11.
“We didn’t go out and beat them 110-108,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “We got them in the mud and we got our hands and our bodies on people. We were very physical.”
After Austin Rivers began the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, New Orleans stayed in the five- to seven-point range most of the way.
Davis’ running hook in the lane over Randolph brought the Pelicans to 72-68 with 6:50 left. Tayshaun Prince answered with a jumper, and after a turnover by Jrue Holiday, dunked on the fast break.
After Davis missed a shot low, Quincy Pondexter followed with a 3-pointer, pushing the Grizzlies’ lead to 81-72 at the 4:32 mark. The Pelicans got to 81-74 after a drive by Evans but could get no closer.
“Obviously in an NBA game there (are) going to be some tough shots taken because that’s what NBA players do,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “But we had a number of open looks tonight. Ryan (Anderson) is not going to go 2-for-14. That just doesn’t happen.”
The Pelicans entered the fourth quarter trailing 64-56, but not before taking their first lead of the game in the third.
Trailing 44-38 with 10:01 showing in the third quarter, the Pelicans finally got going offensively, going on a 7-0 run for a 45-44 lead with eight minutes left. It came on a drive and pass by Evans to Omer Asik for a layup.
Memphis responded with a bigger run. With the score tied at 48 with 4:55 left, Gasol led the Grizzlies on a 12-0 run, getting two three-point plays, as Memphis took a 60-48 lead.
New Orleans fought back with a 6-0 spurt, and had a great opportunity to get closer and keep the momentum going. Evans stole the ball from Mike Conley but missed the layup on the other end. Memphis’ Vince Carter then sank a 3-pointer, pushing the margin to 63-54.
Although they struggled shooting (27 percent) in the first half and Davis went to the bench with three fouls, the Pelicans trailed just 33-30 with 2:36 showing before halftime. Memphis, though, used the same strategy it did when it distanced itself from New Orleans in the first quarter: attacking the basket.
Forward Jon Leuer drove for a layup, then Tony Allen got an offensive rebound on the next trip and passed to backup point guard Beno Udrih for a 3-pointer. Randolph was fouled low and sank two free throws for a 40-30 lead at 1:22.
Holiday sank a 3-pointer 14 seconds later, and as poorly as they shot, the Pelicans trailed at halftime by seven.
Memphis blocked six shots and held a 27-26 rebounding edge. But the Pelicans held the Grizzlies to 40.5 percent and Memphis committed six turnovers to one by New Orleans.
Evans scored 11 points and Holiday seven.
New Orleans dug a dug a hole for itself early, falling behind 20-13 after the first quarter. The Pelicans trailed 14-11 after Eric Gordon’s floater in the lane at the 4:50 mark. However, they missed their final eight shots after that, ending the quarter having made just two of their final 14 shots.
Memphis got off to a 6-0 lead behind Conley, who had consecutive drives. The Pelicans came to 8-7 on a 3-pointer by Evans and drives by Holiday and Evans.
However, Memphis began driving to the basket, and a 6-2 burst gave them a 14-9 lead at 5:13. The finished the quarter off with another 6-2 burst, highlighted by Prince’s 3-pointer at 3:05.
Neither team scored in the last 2:27 of the quarter.
Notes: Pelicans reserve forward John Salmons missed Monday’s game with a family situation, Williams said. ... Gordon’s early season slump continued. He was 4-of-14 shooting, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, and finished with 11 points. He entered the game averaging 4.0 points per game.