By CLAY BAILEY, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Conley is expected to be a scoring leader for Memphis. Seems like he might get some help from rookie Dillon Brooks.
Conley scored 27 points, Brooks added 19 and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-91 in their season opener on Wednesday night.
Brooks, a second-round pick in last summer’s draft, scored 10 points in the second half to help Memphis stretch the lead to 14 in the fourth quarter.
“Man, somebody made a mistake not drafting (Brooks earlier),” Conley said.
“It was really fun,” Brooks said. “Especially with these guys. They made it feel like home, and they never got at me for a shot I took.”
Marc Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Memphis won its opener for the second straight year, a first in franchise history.
“We were not perfect by any means,” Gasol said. “But we were consistent with our effort and very unselfish. That to me is the most important thing.”
The Pelicans relied on 33 points and 18 rebounds from Anthony Davis, while DeMarcus Cousins finished with 28 points and 10 boards. But the frontcourt pair got little help as the Pelicans shot 38 percent. Starting guards Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore were a combined 7 of 22 from the field, including missing all five of their shots outside the arc.
“It’s got to be a combination of both,” Davis said. “When the guards are playing well and making shots, it makes it easy on me and DeMarcus down low.”
Memphis, which trailed early, carried a 54-52 lead into halftime and extended the advantage to 79-70 entering the fourth. The Pelicans only got the deficit to single digits once in the fourth.
“We got real stagnant, and we started forcing the issue,” Cousins said. “We didn’t make the defense work. We started to settle for the initial drive. They are very fixable issues.”
Pelicans: New Orleans had eight blocks in the first quarter, a franchise record for blocks in a period. … Davis is dealing with strep throat. … Davis had seven offensive rebounds. … After making 6 of 9 from outside the arc in the first quarter, New Orleans missed 15 of 16 the rest of the way.
Grizzlies: Andrew Harrison, who won a preseason battle with Wade Baldwin IV for one of the last roster spots, started alongside Conley at guard. … Brooks started 3 of 4 from the field and finished 7 of 13. … Memphis is now 5-18 in season openers but has won three of four. … F JaMychal Green left four minutes into the game with a left ankle injury and did not return.
LOVE FOR THE GRINDFATHER
Pelicans guard Tony Allen, who played seven years for Memphis and coined the team’s Grit and Grind catchphrase, was featured in a video tribute between the first and second quarters.
“I looked at the thing and didn’t realize I was that old,” he said, adding: “It was all special. A special moment.”
The crowd, many wearing Allen’s Grizzlies jersey, gave Allen a long standing ovation when he entered the game in the first quarter. The team recently announced it would retire Allen’s No. 9. Earlier in the day, Allen wrote a thank you letter to the city on the Players’ Tribune website.
Cousins, who led the league in technical fouls last season with 18, started the season in a similar way, drawing a tech in the game’s final minute.
Pelicans: Play home opener Friday night against defending champion Golden State.
Grizzlies: Host Golden State on Saturday night.
More AP basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
By CLAY BAILEY, Associated Press