New Orleans didn’t make any roster changes prior to the NBA trade deadline, partly because the Pelicans’ bench has been so deep and effective that it would be difficult make a significant improvement to the unit. Monday’s first half was Exhibit A. On Lundi Gras, the team’s “second line” completely changed the momentum in FedEx Forum, turning a sluggish start and deficit into a double-digit lead. Jose Alvarado only needed three seconds of playing time to get a steal and fast-break layup, igniting a pivotal run. After holding off a fourth-quarter Grizzlies surge, the Pelicans posted a second win at Memphis this season, the first time they’ve done so since 2013-14 and only the third instance of multiple road victories against the Grizzlies within the same campaign in franchise history.
Willie Green’s postgame assessment of the impact of his reserves: “They were awesome. The moment those guys got in the game… the game turned. They played with energy, toughness, speed, force. It was fun to watch. We have to get off to better starts, but those guys are huge for us.” Alvarado, Trey Murphy, Larry Nance Jr. and Naji Marshall each sank a three-pointer in the late stages of the first quarter, and the group made more plays in the second half. Nance and Murphy threw down fourth-period dunks, accounting for two of NOLA’s buckets in the last stanza. Brandon Ingram accounted for the other two hoops, mid-range jumpers in the final minutes that finally allowed the visitors to breathe a sigh of relief.
Clamping down on Triple J.
Memphis’ chances to overcome a talent disparity and defeat New Orleans rested at least partly in Jaren Jackson Jr. having a big night, particularly with fellow top Grizzlies players Ja Morant and Desmond Bane out due to injury. Jackson had his moments, but as the game progressed, the New Orleans defense and Nance made things tougher on the center/forward. Jackson totaled 22 points on 8/19 shooting, just 2/8 on threes.
All-Defense, all-around Herb Jones.
The third-year wing is delivering at both ends of the floor on a regular basis these days, which was again the case Monday. Jones’ stat line featured 17 points, nine rebounds and five steals over 35 minutes of action. He’s kept moving further above 40 percent from three-point distance on the season, going 3/6 against the Grizzlies. “I just continue to work,” Jones said of his accuracy improvement (34 percent on threes in each of his two previous seasons). “I haven’t really changed much (in my shot). Trust in my work when I get out here (in games). The big thing that helps me is my teammates and coaches believe in me.”
6: Southwest Division road wins for New Orleans in 2023-24, the most in team history. The Pelicans joined the Southwest in 2004-05 and only play eight divisional away games per season. They went 2-0 in Memphis, 2-0 in San Antonio and split 1-1 in Dallas and Houston.
8-6: New Orleans division record overall, with one home game apiece remaining vs. Houston (Feb. 22) and San Antonio (April 5). Normally division record is a relatively meaningless statistic, but after tying the season series with Dallas at 2-2, it will serve as the end-of-season tiebreaker between the Pelicans and Mavericks. Those clubs are only separated by one game in the standings.
9: Consecutive quarters in which the Pelicans didn’t allow more than 26 points by the opponent. That’s allowed them to beat Portland and Memphis, despite below average offensive outings.