MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Although the Memphis Grizzlies were the ones on a five-game winning streak and the New Orleans Pelicans were the ones on an eight-game losing streak, you would not have known it by Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger's comments.
After Joerger saw his team blow an opportunity to move above .500, losing 95-92 to the Pelicans on Monday at the FedExForum, he said his team had been building toward this defeat for a while.
"It got away from us a week ago," Joerger said. "We walked around, didn't play hard enough and Milwaukee played harder than us. We came in and walked around against Sacramento. We didn't play hard until the last six, seven, eight minutes. We escaped with a win. Tonight we walked around and walked around. We are not going to play better until we play harder."
Memphis (20-20) led 69-68 going into the fourth quarter. But when reserve guard Tyreke Evans (15 points and seven assists) hit a pair of free throws at the 6:30 mark the Pelicans had an 85-76 lead and the Grizzlies again were in the position of playing from behind - something they did a lot during their winning streak.
Evans scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter and power forward Anthony Davis, who finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four blocks, knocked down a huge jumper with 35.6 seconds left to give New Orleans (16-24) a 95-91 cushion.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams called Evans "one of the most underrated players in the NBA" and praised Davis for overcoming a poor shooting first half to score 21 points in the second half.
"He was 2-of-11 in the first half," Williams said. "Part of being a great player is not worrying about your numbers."
The Grizzlies, however, had to worry about Davis and 7-2 center Alexis Ajinca (10 points and six rebounds off the bench) all the time.
"It seems like you get around one 7-footer and you have another 7-footer waiting for you," Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (13 points) said of the Pelicans' front line. "It's tough on our big guys and tough on our guards."
But there was also trouble at the other end of the court for Memphis. The Grizzlies' 18 turnovers translated into 18 points for the Pelicans.
"Our defense was horrible," said Memphis power forward Zach Randolph, who had 23 points and a season-high 20 rebounds.
The Pelicans' bench outscored the Grizzlies' bench 38-18. New Orleans starting guards Brian Roberts and Eric Gordon finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
"It's been a tough time these past few weeks," Gordon said. "We knew we were getting close to winning games. We were just trying to figure it out. It's really good to get this win."
Grizzlies shooting guard Courtney Lee scored 19 points and center Marc Gasol had 14 points and eight rebounds. Memphis dropped to 0-10 against Southwest Division opponents, and the Grizzlies are the only NBA team that is winless in its own division.
The score was tied 76-76 when New Orleans (16-24) went on an 11-2 run to go up 87-78 with 5:28 to play in the fourth quarter. After a layup by Grizzlies forward Ed Davis at 8:24 that made it 76-76, Memphis went more than three minutes without a field goal.
"Defensively, we did pretty well," Gordon said.
In the last four minutes Memphis worked the deficit down to two points three different times, but never got closer. Memphis pulled to within two as late as the 1:00 mark, trailing 93-91 after a Lee bank shot.
New Orleans shot 45.5 percent (35-for-77) from the floor. Memphis shot 41.9 percent (31-for-74). The Grizzlies won the rebounding battle, 44-34, but the Pelicans outscored them in the paint 40-36.
Randolph agreed with Joerger's assessment that the Grizzlies came out flat.
"I don't understand," Randolph said. "We gotta come out (hard) from the start."
NOTES: Before the game, former NBA greats Bernard King, JoJo White and Dikembe Mutombo were honored for their contributions to human and civil rights. The Memphis Grizzlies hosted the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day. "It's almost hard to put into words playing here today, the impact of Dr. King," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "It's pretty special." ... Already without PG Jrue Holiday, F Ryan Anderson and center Jason Smith, who are out indefinitely with injuries, the Pelicans did not have G Anthony Morrow Monday because of illness. ... After Monday's game, the Grizzlies play four of their next five on the road. Memphis carried a 20-19 record into the game. "It's an opportunity to get away from .500," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. "You don't want to hang around .500 very long in the West."