The New Orleans Pelicans are halfway through the season.
They are 19-22 after a 114-95 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night in the Smoothie King Center gave them consecutive victories for the first time since the middle of November.
Sure the wins came against two of the NBA's most struggling teams — the Pelicans handed the Grizzlies their sixth consecutive loss two days after they gave host Cleveland its ninth consecutive loss.
But a team that had gone 8-15 since it last won consecutive games isn’t going to nit-pick about details.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game said the inability to win consecutive games had largely been due to an inability to win tight games. One example was the first game against the Grizzlies, in which host New Orleans led by eight points with less than six minutes remaining but fell 107-103 on Dec. 7.
New Orleans made sure that wouldn’t be an issue this time by taking a commanding lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“When we’ve lost games it hasn’t been by a lot,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s usually been by five points or less.”
In fact, the Pelicans are 4-10 in games that have been decided by five points or fewer.
New Orleans, which last won consecutive games during a three-game winning streak from Nov. 17-19, hosts the Cavaliers on Wednesday before embarking on a five-game road trip.
“I think we’re all right,” Holiday said. “We’re going to get some guys back from injury.”
Starting forwards E’Twaun Moore (quad) and Nikola Mirotic (ankle) sat out Monday. Moore was injured Saturday and is day to day. Mirotic has missed the last 12 games because of an ankle injury but is expected back soon.
Anthony Davis had 36 points and 13 rebounds, Frank Jackson came off the bench to add 17 points, Julius Randle scored 15, Jrue Holiday had 13 and Elfrid Payton 11.
Mike Conley led Memphis (18-22) with 22 points and 10 assists, JaMychal Green came off the bench to score 16 and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 12. Former LSU player Garrett Temple started and had eight points and four rebounds.
New Orleans made just 6 of 17 3-pointers (35.3 percent), but shot 55.1 percent (44 of 79) on field goals.
The Grizzlies trailed by two at halftime but took a five-point lead early in the third quarter before going scoreless for 5½ minutes as New Orleans took a 70-60 lead.
Conley ended the drought with a 3-pointer, but two 3-pointers by Frank Jackson and one by Holiday helped the Pelicans extend the lead to 86-73 after three quarters.
Jackson Jr.’s layup and Conley’s 3-pointer started the fourth-quarter scoring and pulled the Grizzlies within eight points.
Four Pelicans scored two points each as they rebuilt the lead to 94-80 and they continued to increase the lead, building a margin as big as 23 points.
Davis scored 19 points, making 9 of 10 shots, as the Pelicans took a 31-27 lead after one quarter.
He had just four second-quarter points as he made 1 of 4 field goals and New Orleans took a 53-51 halftime lead. New Orleans dropped to 44.4 percent shooting in the second quarter after shooting 70 percent in the first.
“He has to be involved,” Gentry said of Davis. “He doesn’t have to take every shot, but it has to go through him because he can also create stuff for other guys.”
The concept of momentum is tricky.