By CLAY BAILEY, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — After a poor defensive performance in the first quarter, the Memphis Grizzlies turned up the pressure all the way until the last minute.
The Grizzlies held New Orleans to a mere nine points in the third period and then forced a key turnover by DeMarcus Cousins in the final seven seconds to help them defeat the Pelicans 105-102 on Wednesday night.
With New Orleans trailing 103-102, Cousins headed to the middle of the lane, but had the ball knocked away by Marc Gasol. Tyreke Evans, who was fouled immediately after the turnover — the Pelicans’ 12th of the game — converted a pair of free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
“It was a risky play,” Gasol said of helping defensively on Cousins. “Once I saw him put the head down and not really seeing it, I saw a chance and took a gamble and it paid off.”
After Evans’ foul shots, the Pelicans had a chance for a tie, but E’Twaun Moore’s 3-point attempt from the left wing bounced off the front of the rim.
“You’ve got to live with it,” said Moore. “That didn’t go in. You’ve got to go to the next time. That’s all.”
Evans scored 28 points, while Gasol finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis. JaMychal Green contributed 20 points and 14 rebounds — one off his season high in both categories.
Cousins had 29 points and eight rebounds. Moore finished with 16 points and Rajon Rondo scored 14.
Cousins was 2 of 10 from the field entering the fourth, but scored 14 points in the final quarter. He had four 3-pointers in the fourth, including a trio of 3s as the Pelicans overcame an 11-point deficit.
“Basically, had some open shots,” Cousins said. “Found shots in the flow of the game.”
After leading 61-60 at halftime, the Pelicans ran into offensive problems in the third quarter when they scored nine points — a season low for any quarter. They made only four of their 17 shots and missed all four free throw attempts.
“Bad quarter. Terrible quarter,” Cousins said.
That allowed Memphis, which scored just 17 points in the period, to take a 77-70 lead heading to the fourth.
“Obviously, we struggled in the third quarter,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We struggled to make a shot. I thought our defense was great in the third quarter. But when you give up 17 points and score nine, that was a major problem in the second half.”
Pelicans: F Anthony Davis did not play after injuring his right ankle Monday against the Pistons. … New Orleans signed G DeAndre Liggins to a 10-day contract. The addition of Liggins gives New Orleans five former Kentucky Wildcats on its roster. … Cousins has reached double figures in every Pelicans game this season. … New Orleans was hindered by making only 23 of 34 free throws and going 5 of 8 in the fourth.
Grizzlies: Memphis had not played since Friday. The four-day span was the longest break of the season outside of the All-Star break. … G Andrew Harrison, who missed the last game with a left shoulder injury, returned against New Orleans and started. He finished with 11 points. … Gasol hit all five of his shots in the first half.
With his team trailing 105-102, Moore’s last-second 3-point attempt from about 27 feet out was an open look, especially for a guy who hits 45.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, fifth-best in the league. “It was a great shot,” Gentry said. “We’re not going to get a better shot than that.”
The last New Orleans possession began with 5.9 seconds left, and interim Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said things moved too fast to foul. “The way (the Pelicans) push it, sometimes it’s a little dangerous,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s hard to wrap him up.” As for Moore ending up with a good look, Bickerstaff said: “We trusted in our defense. (We) over-helped a little bit, which created a wide-open look.”
Pelicans: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Grizzlies: Travel to Denver to face the Nuggets on Friday.
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