MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — On a night where new faces sprinkled Memphis’ rotation, an old vet carried the Grizzlies to their first victory of a new era.
Joakim Noah had season highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead the new-look Grizzlies to a 99-90 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
“Ton of credit to Joakim,” Memphis coach said about Noah – in his 11th season and first with Memphis. “He had a flashback to a few years ago. He was all over the place, and I think he led the charge with his energy.”
Justin Holiday had 15 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 14 points, 10 of them in the fourth. C.J. Miles, playing his first game for Memphis added 13 points to help the Grizzlies win for the third time in four games.
With three new players in the rotation, along with more minutes for former reserves, the Memphis offense was not very fluid early. The defense struggled, too, as New Orleans shot 61 percent in the first quarter.
“I think all the guys, they just wanted to come in and be effective on offense and defense,” said center Ivan Rabb, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “I feel like we got off to a slow start because our communication wasn’t there. Once we picked it up at the end of the first quarter and going into the second, we looked totally different.”
The smoother communication as the game progressed benefited the Memphis defense. After connecting on 11 of 18 shots in the first quarter, New Orleans went 15 of 50 over the next two frames, scoring only 34 points.
“I think we had too many dribble tantrums,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said, `where we would just dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble. This is not the team you do that against because they are very good at getting into the ball.”
Memphis used the Pelicans struggles in the middle two quarters to carry a 10-point lead into the fourth. The lead would eventually stretch to 12 in the closing minutes as the Pelicans saw their two-game winning streak snapped.
And even though players across the league are familiar with each other’s games, it is a bit of adjustment to see them playing in different roles on a new team, said Pelicans forward Kenrich Williams, who had 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
“We didn’t even know who was starting until about 10 minutes before the game,” Williams said. “So, that’s kind of tough. But you can’t make excuses. You’ve got to go out there and get it done.”