Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson come up big as Pelicans defeat Grizzlies
Both teams were 0-2 in seeding games.
Memphis was playing the second of back-to-back games.
The Pelicans were 2-0 against the Grizzlies on the season.
Make that 3-0 after a 109-99 victory Monday night for New Orleans for its first win in seeding games.
What really mattered was New Orleans locked down on defense, rebounded defensively and played Zion Williamson in crunch time and he made a huge difference.
When your two stars are on the floor in crunch time, in a close game, and they perform like stars, you are going to win.
For the first time in Orlando, Williamson was in the game down the stretch and so was Brandon Ingram.
They were stars, to say the least.
With a 91-85 lead and 7:01 to play in the game, Williamson and Ingram scored 17 straight points. The only other point scored by New Orleans the rest of the way was by Jrue Holiday, who split a pair of free throws with 26.1 seconds left for the final point of the contest.
Speaking of free throws, the Pelicans would have won easily had they made more of their shots from the charity stripe.
Because of their attacking, aggressive nature, the Pelicans got to the line 39 times but made just 24 for 61.5 percent.
Still, you had to like what you saw overall, a team that defended much better than it had in its two previous games and a team that worked hard for 50-50 balls and won the battle of the boards 49-43. The Pelicans held Memphis to just 39.8 percent shooting from the field.
From the start, New Orleans attacked the rim on offense, regardless of the defensive wall presented. The Pelicans were going to be aggressive and it would pay off.
Williamson was just 2-of-7 from the field in the opening quarter but he was attacking and aggressive and finished with five points and four rebounds in just five minutes.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who played well in the fourth quarter in the blowout loss to the Clippers, entered the game with over four minutes left in the first quarter but he was no factor and did play again after the first quarter.
New Orleans built an 11-point lead but the bench failed and a barrage of turnovers led to a 12-5 run by Memphis to close the quarter to cut the New Orleans lead to 26-22 at the end of one quarter.
Once again, turnovers were an issue as the Pelicans committed six in the quarter. Jaxson Hayes had three turnovers and three fouls in three minutes.
New Orleans got to the free throw line 10 times in the opening quarter, including eight by Brandon Ingram. New Orleans made seven of those free throw attempts.
The Pelicans won the boards 15-9 in the quarter but the Grizzlies crushed New Orleans off the bench by a 16-3 margin.
New Orleans shot 22 free throws, making 15 in the half while Memphis made all seven of its attempts. The Pelicans earned their way to the line by attacking the rim constantly while the Grizzlies settled for 24 shots from 3-point range, making just six.
An unexpected, unlikely source in Grayson Allen kept Memphis in the game, scoring 17 points in just one half. He would not score another point in the game.
New Orleans controlled the boards 28-19 and Williamson finished the half with 11 points, five rebounds and two assists and Josh Hart provided energy off the bench with seven points and four rebounds. Lonzo Ball had seven points and five assists.
The Pelicans struggled offensively in the third quarter and lost the lead before tightening up defensively to take a 79-74 lead going to the fourth quarter, setting the state for the heroics of Williamson and Ingram.
Holiday was excellent defensively against Ja Morant. The presumed Rookie of the Year was held to just 11 points on 5-of-21 shooting. Holiday added 15 points on the offensive end.
JJ Redick was productive again with 16 points while Hart hustled to 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Williamson and Ingram finished with nearly identical stat sheets. Zion finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Ingram had 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Williamson had just seven shot attempts against the Clippers. He took 21 shots against Memphis.
Another key was the fact that New Orleans had just four turnovers in the second half, 14 for the game.
Now 29-38, the Pelicans moved to within two and a half games of Memphis in the West.
Next up is another big game against another Western Conference playoff contender in Sacramento on Thursday night. With some momentum, some rest and with Williamson playing a bigger role, the outlook suddenly looks a bit, if not much brighter than it did two nights ago.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…