The Memphis Grizzlies threatened to ruin a gutsy performance by the New Orleans Pelicans, but led by Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday down the stretch, they wouldn’t let them.
Each sank huge 3-pointers to help the Pelicans secure a 104-98 victory on Friday night at New Orleans Arena that enabled them to salvage their four-game homestand.
“I just think we have that attitude of fighting,” Williams said. “We’ve been in tough situations, but we’ve come through it. That’s a big deal for a young team.”
With a big road trip starting Sunday against good Western Conference teams, the Pelicans (11-10) finished 2-2 on the homestand after losing the first two games. The victory, the second against Memphis (10-12), put them over the .500 mark for the second time in the young season and first time since they returned home Dec. 3 after a three-game road trip.
The only damper was that Tyreke Evans re-injured his sprained left ankle just before halftime and did not return.
New Orleans entered the fourth quarter leading by 17 points, but Memphis chipped away with Gordon and Ryan Anderson, heroes of a big third quarter, resting on the bench. With the score 94-88, Gordon sank a 3-pointer at 3:46. Holiday, who also had a baseline drive late, sank a 3 with 54.3 seconds showing to seal the outcome at 103-93.
Gordon scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting, Holiday had 20 and points and 12 assists, and Anderson, battling Memphis strongman Zack Randolph, had 18 points and helped hold Randolph to 13 points. The Pelicans had a season-low six turnovers.
Having fought back in the second quarter, the Pelicans turned up the intensity and wore down the Grizzlies in a huge third-quarter performance that put them in complete control at 82-65.
New Orleans outscored Memphis 27-11 in the quarter, one known to well for Pelican meltdowns. Not this time. Anderson’s tough play and Gordon’s determined drives led the way.
With both teams playing at an up tempo, the Pelicans eked out a 63-60 lead after Gordon pulled up for a jumper and Anderson took Randolph on a drive at 6:50 of the third.
That was the beginning of the Pelicans grabbing the game by the throat.
Anderson, obviously up to the challenge against Randolph, blocked his shot in the low post at 4:17.
He then drew two fouls on the same trip up court, and Randolph left the game with four fouls at 3:41.
The Pelicans held Memphis to three points during a 5-minute, 24-second span that gave them a 77-63 bulge with 1:26 showing on a dunk by Amundson after he rolled and got a bounce pass from Holiday.
Gordon put the cap on the impressive quarter when he sank a 3 over Jerryd Bayless’ outstretched arm at the shot-clock buzzer with 1.1 seconds left, ending the quarter’s scoring. Gordon had 12 points in the quarter on 5-of-6 shooting, including two 3-pointers.
With Gordon and Anderson getting a rest, Memphis whittled the lead to 94-85 at 5:39, a 3-pointer by Bayless proving big at 6:31. After a timeout, Gordon and Anderson reintered.
Chasing the Grizzlies since early in the first quarter, the Pelicans finally ran them down just before halftime.
Evans made two free throws with 45.6 seconds left to bring New Orleans to 54-53. Then, with 15 seconds left, Anderson played tough defense against Randolph, who missed a shot two feet from the basket.
Evans got the ball on the break, drove for the basket and was fouled by Tony Allen with .08 seconds showing. In trying to stretch and make the shot after hearing the official’s whistle on the foul, Evans appeared to re-injure his sprained left ankle. However, he made both shots, and the Pelicans led 55-54 at halftime.
Nonetheless, Memphis shot 59.5 percent and New Orleans 55.3. The Grizzlies won the rebounding battle, 19-12. The difference was the Pelicans made five of 11 3-point attempts – to Memphis’ 2-of-5 – and sank all eight of their free throws, while the Grizzlies were just 2-of-4.
Unlike the first meeting, Memphis started off fast and led 34-26 at the end of the first quarter, making six of its first seven shots.