Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram Power Pelicans Past Ja Morant, Grizzlies

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) shoots in front of Memphis Grizzlies' Brandon Clarke (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies' grip on the eighth seed continued to slip as they suffered their fourth straight defeat, losing 109-99 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, earned a much-needed victory as they attempt to climb into the playoffs. They had dropped their first two games of the NBA's restart in Florida.  

Zion Williamson's playing time has been a big storyline surrounding the Pelicans, who have to balance their quest for the postseason with doing what they can to limit his injury risk. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick was on the floor for 25 minutes after getting 29 combined minutes in the team's last two outings.

That perhaps reflected how badly the Pelicans had to turn things around.

           

Notable Stats

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Zion Williamson, SF, Pelicans: 9-of-21 FG, 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists

Brandon Ingram, SF, Pelicans: 8-of-16 FG, 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals

Josh Hart, SF, Pelicans: 5-of-6 FG, 15 points, seven rebounds

Ja Morant, PG, Grizzlies: 5-of-21 FG, 11 points, five rebounds, eight assists

Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Grizzlies: 7-of-17 FG, 22 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks

            

Williamson Helps Pelicans Close out Win

In the Pelicans' first game back, they held a 93-89 lead on the Utah Jazz when Williamson exited with 7:19 left in the game. He remained on the bench as New Orleans saw its advantage evaporate en route to a 106-104 defeat.

Head coach Alvin Gentry said on ESPN as the fourth quarter opened that the plan was for Williamson to play eight-to-10 minutes in the final frame. He made it to the 6:21 mark before exiting, appearing visibly fatigued.

Williamson re-entered with 4:29 left and the Pelicans clinging to a seven-point lead, 97-90.

In general, Williamson still looks a step below where he was before the NBA suspended the season in March. He has the strength to score inside, but the explosion isn't quite there. Still, he scored six points over those final four-and-a-half minutes to help New Orleans hang on—a stark contrast from that Jazz game.

Brandon Ingram delivered the dagger when he connected on a pull-up jumper with 1:02 remaining to make it a nine-point game, 108-99. His outing mirrored his overall effort over what has been a career year.

Even in the likely outcome the Pelicans miss the playoffs, Monday was an example of why fans should be so excited about the future.

             

Grizzlies Doomed by Bad Night from Morant

The Grizzlies briefly turned the tide against the Pelicans in the third quarter thanks to their defense, but that progress was undone by their poor offense. They held New Orleans to 21 points but scored just 23 themselves.

This isn't a game Ja Morant will remember fondly. The rookie guard moved the ball around the floor well but didn't have his shooting touch.

Two-time All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday was causing problems for Morant all night.

Jaren Jackson Jr. was similarly inconsistent, only really coming on strong against a tired Williamson in the fourth quarter. His five fouls also impacted how aggressive he could be inside on both ends of the court. 

The bench stepped up for Memphis to ensure the team was never too far behind the Pelicans. The quartet of Grayson Allen, Brandon Clarke, De'Anthony Melton and Anthony Tolliver combined for 33 points.

Allen, in particular, picked a good time to have his best performance of the season.

In order to stop their current slide, the Grizzlies will still need more from their two best players when they return to the court.

           

What's Next?

The Grizzlies meet the Jazz on Wednesday, while the Pelicans play the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.