The performance of Zion Williamson, who scored 31 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, catapulted the New Orleans Pelicans to a clear victory at the home of the Memphis Grizzlies by 113-144 in a match in which Spanish also stood out Willy Hernangómez with 14 points, the fourth highest scorer of his team.
When the Pelicans and Grizzlies met in New Orleans two weeks ago, Williamson and Brandon Ingram’s team was in a state of grace, chaining four consecutive victories that made the Southerners forget the bad start to the season.
Then the Pelicans beat the Grizzlies 118-109 with Zion Williams as the leading scorer of the game with 29 points and 4 rebounds, although his teammate Brandon Ingram had 27 points and 12 rebounds.
But two weeks later, the good vibes for the Pelicans were gone with three straight losses in which the defense was conspicuous by its absence to the despair of New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy.
Poor defense has condemned the Pelicans to 12th place in the Western Conference while the Grizzlies were the ninth team in the table.
Tuesday night’s game at the FedExForum in Memphis was presented as a good opportunity to try to rebuild the team against Grizzlies who are the second youngest and most inexperienced team this season after the Minnesota Timberwolves of Ricky Rubio and Willy’s brother, Juancho Hernangómez.
The Pelicans did not pass up the opportunity, with an outstanding performance from Williamson who was joined by Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Hernangómez. The performance of the Madrid pivot, with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal was especially important because it was the second with fewest minutes of the nine usual players of the New Orleans.
The first quarter was dominated by the Grizzlies, who in the first 12 minutes of the game were placed 11 points ahead thanks to an effective Ja Morant who led his team safely in attack and who scored 10 points in that period.
For their part, the Pelicans had Ingram as their best offensive asset thanks to 2 triples scored, a 100% effectiveness for the forward from beyond the line of three. Williamson didn’t start out fine: in a few minutes he had lost five possessions and seemed to have trouble getting into the rhythm of the game.
The Pelicans suffered from Williamson’s weak start and the first quarter ended 32-29 in favor of the Grizzlies.
But in the second quarter, Williamson began to find his place on the court and with the collaboration of Hart, Ingram and Hernangómez, the athletic power forward took control of the game and the Pelicans dominated the rest of the game.
With no response for the Williamson’s “locomotive” inputs, the distance began to grow in favor of the Pelicans. At halftime, the scoreboard was 58-63, with Zion and Hart tied at 15 points and Hernangómez, with 6 points after just 8.3 minutes of play.
In the second half, the Pelicans maintained defensive intensity, their Achilles heel, especially in the third quarter, which assured them the final victory.
To highlight were two consecutive plays in the paint of the Grizzlies that demonstrate the good rapport that Hernangómez obtains with his teammates as soon as he accumulates minutes on the track.
In the first, Zion made one of his brilliant tackles but instead of shooting, he passed the ball in the paint to Hernangómez who was crossing the area on the back line, a play that ended in a basket.
On the next play, Hernangómez returned the favor to Williamson who scored an inning after the Spaniard’s assist.