NEW ORLEANS — With just under four minutes remaining in New Orleans’ Friday night affair with Memphis, Monty Williams called a timeout.
He had to.
The Grizzlies were on 15-3 run and had tightened a one-time blowout to a six-point game.
His solution was simple – turn to Eric Gordon.
“We just put the ball in Eric’s hands and had him make a play,” Williams said. “We had he and Ryan in pick-and-roll and Eric’s really good at reading defenses, so he comes out and hits a big shot and then we just got stops when we needed.”
The gambit worked and the Pelicans beat Southwest Division rival Memphis 104-98, ending a four-game home stand with their second straight win.
And now, for just the second time this season, New Orleans is above .500, getting to 11-10.
Gordon finished with 25 points on 10 of 12 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and had four assists to pace the Pelicans.
“I can make it work every single night,” Gordon said. “I’ve shown that I can score at any point during the game. This game is long. There’s so many possessions where you get a chance to score. With me tonight, I was just hitting everything basically.”
His 20-foot pull-up jumper, which came after sitting for much of the second half, showed that.
But while Gordon put the team on his back on offense, it was the way his teammates played defense in the middle 24 minutes that turned the game around. After allowing Memphis (10-12) to shoot 64 percent in the first quarter, New Orleans allowed only 13 made baskets in the next two quarters, turning an eight-point deficit into a 17-point lead going into the final 12 minutes.
“We didn’t really make an adjustment,” Williams said. “We just said do what we do better. It’s hard to make an adjustment when you haven’t done what you’re supposed to.”
It helped that the Pelicans took care of the ball, turning the ball over a season-low six times. New Orleans is the only team this season through 21 games without turning the ball over 18 or more times, a big reason it has put itself in position through the first quarter of the season to fight for a playoff spot.
Point guard Jrue Holiday complemented Gordon, scoring 20 points and dishing out 12 assists all while not turning the ball over once.
Still, of the Pelicans’ 11 wins, only four have come on the road and they’re set to go on a five-game West Coast road trip.
And while New Orleans showed some growth in not giving in when the first quarter didn’t go its way, Williams would like to see how the team responds on the road.
“That’s the one thing we showed out East,” Williams said. “When we get in tough situations we can grind it out at home. ...We’re going to have to have the carry-over – this mentality we’ve had – take it to the road and try to do a bit better.”
NOTE: Guard Tyreke Evans reinjured his left ankle late in the first half and didn’t return. He said he hopes he’ll be able to return quickly from his third sprain of the season. “I’m feeling all right,” Evans said. “Just a little pain. That’s pretty much it. … Just a little tweak. Hopefully I’ll be back next game.”