Why Have the Pelicans Played Well Against Memphis, and Will It Continue?

Published: November 2, 2014

New Orleans has been bad at basketball the last few years. The Memphis Grizzlies, on the other hand, have been very good. Given these two facts, one can find it rather odd that the Pelicans have not only held their own against Memphs in recent years, but they have thrived. New Orleans has won  5 of the last 7 meetings, and it could have been 6 of the last 7 if not for a narrow 90-88 loss last March in which the Pelicans just collapsed down the stretch. They led 88-81 with 3:11 left and never scored again, largely due to the fact that Brian Roberts, Greg Stiemsma, Austin Rivers, and Al-Farouq Aminu were finishing the game because everybody but AD was hurt that night.

So, why have the Pelicans been so successful against a team that most consider among the NBA’s elite over these past few years? Well, one thing they have done is contain the Grizzlies on the offensive end, holding them to under 100 points in each of the last 8 meetings. Memphis is not very good in the half court, as they tend to thrive off of creating turnovers, and getting easy buckets when they can. In the last 8 meetings, they have averaged less than 15 points per game off of turnovers. The Grizzlies also tend to go to Zach Randolph when the going gets rough, but over the last two years, Randolph has averaged just 14.1 points per game against New Orleans – thanks in large part to Anthony Davis.

Lastly, they have forced Mike Conley to become a scorer against them, and an inefficient one at that. Last year, Conley put up over 18 points per game against the Pelicans but he shot less than 43% and averaged less than 3 assists per game. In their second meeting last year, Jrue Holiday and Conley went head-to-head and Holiday absolutely owned him. Conley put up 18 points, but it took him 19 shots to do it. Meanwhile, Holiday scored 20 points on 14 shots and had a twelve to zero assist to turnover ratio to boot.

The Grizzlies simply don’t have the firepower to take care of the Pelicans most glaring weakness, and on the other end the Pelicans have controlled the ball and made enough shots to pull most of these games out. While Memphis plays solid defense, they have no answer for Anthony Davis. The Lakers and Blazers are the only Western Conference teams that AD has a higher career scoring average against, and he put up a blistering 24.7 ppg against the Grizzlies last year, as the Pelicans had a 129 offensive rating when he was on the court. Davis can get up and down the court against their slow footed bigs and can either shoot over Randolph or pull Gasol out of the paint, which helps everyone else out.

New Orleans travels to Memphis tomorrow night, and they hope to continue the recent trend. In order to do so, they must continue to do what they have done in the past – limit turnovers, control Randolph, make Conley a scorer, and feed AD the rock. All of those things seem reasonable, and if they do it again, expect them to come back to New Orleans with a 2-1 record as they face the Charlotte Hornets.

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