Pelicans heat up, cool off hot Grizzlies

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Coming off of a debilitating loss to an elite team in the Clippers, the New Orleans Pelicans had to face the hottest team in the league on the road, in Memphis, on Martin Luther King Day, in the city where Dr. King was assassinated.

The Grizzlies had won seven straight games and were 5-0 on the homestand. Both streaks ended Monday as New Orleans prevailed 126-116 in a game that the Pelicans controlled from start to finish.

It was a tough task, to say the least.

Jrue Holiday returned to action and was simply on fire.

The Pelicans were blazing hot as a team in the first half, connecting on 15-of-28 from 3-point range (53.6%). It was a franchise record for made 3-pointers in a half.

New Orleans led 69-50 at halftime behind 21 points from Jrue Holiday and 13 off the bench by Nicolo Melli.

New Orleans started Melli at center in the second half over Jaxson Hayes.

Holiday made a career-high seven 3-pointers. He finished with 36 points and six rebounds in a brilliant effort. Holiday had missed seven games and did not miss a beat. His defense on Ja Morant was equally as impressive.

Melli ended up with 15 points. Josh Hart and JJ Redick each scored 10 points.

The Pelicans set a franchise record with 21 made 3-pointers.

They needed it.

New Orleans was playing without centers Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor and had a huge size disadvantage. Predictably, Memphis won the battle of the boards 51-43 and the Grizzlies crushed New Orleans in the paint, outscoring the Pelicans 70-36.

New Orleans blitzed Memphis 63-27 from 3-point range and outscored the Grizzlies 21-15 from the free throw line.

When Memphis made a run in the fourth quarter, Ingram took over, scoring seven straight points and 14 in the quarter with three assists. He scored 12 of the final 15 points for New Orleans. He also had a great penetration and assist on a dagger 3-pointer by Redick with 35.9 seconds left go give New Orleans a nine-point lead.

That came after Memphis had cut the deficit to 121-116 with 1:28 to play with a 13-2 run.

After a quiet first three quarters, Ingram finished with 25 points and six assists.

New Orleans led by 25 points and had to survive late but did so.

The game was important as Memphis occupies the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race, at this time. By winning, New Orleans pulled within 3.5 games of the Grizzlies in the standings, keeping them squarely in their sights.

Now comes the highly anticipated debut of Zion Williamson Wednesday night against San Antonio.

We cannot expect the world from Williamson too soon.

It will also be interesting to see how he impacts a young team that has found its identity, its groove, having won 11 of its last 16 games.

Rotations will change. Minutes will be impacted.

It will be interesting to see how Brandon Ingram handles it.

Ingram has been playing at the four-sport on the floor quite a bit and that is Zion’s spot. How well will Williamson mesh with his teammates?

Great floor spacing and good shooting has been a constant for the Pelicans. The presence of Williamson may help the spacing even more.

Simply put, Zion’s presence cannot hurt but only help an exciting young team that continues to improve on a daily basis.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

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…

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