Jones scores 27, leads Grizzlies past Pelicans, 121-109
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tyus Jones scored a career-high 27 points to go with nine assists while filling in for All-Star Ja Morant, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 121-109 Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory and ninth in 10 games.
“Definitely a memorable game for me,” Jones said. “Just trying to do my job. And filling in for (Morant) obviously is a tall task — big shoes to fill.
“It’s not only on me, but at the same time, a lot of it does fall on my shoulders as a point guard,” Jones added. “So, I’m trying to step up to the challenge.”
Jaren Jackson added 23 points and ex-Pelican Steven Adams had 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 13 rebounds for Memphis, which led for nearly the entire game and by double digits for more than half of it.
“We feed off one another,” Jones said. “We use each other’s energy to give ourselves energy and our camaraderie is just great right now.
“The season gets long. There’s times where you might not feel up to it,” Jones added. “Two games before All-Star break it’s easy to come out and be flat. But we hold each other accountable. Everyone knows each game, each night, is important.”
Morant sat out with left ankle soreness stemming from the Grizzlies’ victory at Charlotte last Saturday night.
While Morant averages 26.4 points per game, the Grizzlies have usually played well without him. They are now 12-2 in games he’s missed. Against New Orleans, Memphis had six players score 11 or more, including Brandon Clarke with 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
“Ja is one of the best players in the league,” Clarke said. “So, if we can come out and still play well without him, that just shows how deep our team is and how good of a team that we are and how our chemistry that we built is showing.”
CJ McCollum had 30 points to lead New Orleans, which was coming off a 30-point victory over Toronto just one night earlier, but fell to 1-3 since trading with Portland for the star guard. Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points and Brandon Ingram added 18 points for the Pelicans.
But that wasn’t going to be enough on a night when the Grizzlies outrebounded the Pelicans 49-34 and converted 18 offensive rebounds into 27 second-chance points.
“They killed us on the O-boards,” McCollum said. “Second-chance points was huge tonight.”
The Grizzlies led by as many as 20 points in the first half when Jones’ free throws made it 62-42 with 2:25 remaining in the second quarter.
When playing for the second consecutive night, McCollum said, “You can’t dig yourself a hole, because it’s already hard enough to compete. Basically, we feel a little bit more tired, so you’ve got to keep the game close and not stab yourself in the foot.”
New Orleans trimmed its deficit back to 12 before the half ended, helped by McCollum’s floating jumper, driving layup, and driving floater off the glass as he was fouled — the latter making it 65-53 with half a second on the game clock.
Memphis pushed its lead back up to 17 in the third quarter when Jones’ 3 made it 87-70, but the Pelicans closed the quarter on a 13-6 run — again fueled by McCollum, who scored nine points during the surge on three driving layups and a banked floater as he was fouled.
The Pelicans briefly pulled within single digits in the middle of the fourth quarter, but never got closer than eight points.
Grizzlies: De’Anthony Melton scored 13 and Desmond Bane 11 points. ... Shot 50% (47 of 94) overall but just 29.4% (10 for 34) from 3-point range. ... Missed 10 of 27 free throws. ... Combined for 29 assists on their 47 made baskets. ... Outscored New Orleans in the paint, 62-60.
Pelicans: Reserve forward Jaxson Hayes scored 13 pints and and reserve center Willy Hernangomez added 12 points. ... Devonte’ Graham’s recent shooting slump continued. He missed five of six shots, all from 3-point range. ... Shot 15.4% (4 for 26) from 3-point range.
KUDOS FROM COACH
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins heaped praise on Jones after the game.
“He played with great poise but also great physicality and force, getting inside, getting to the rim, his paint finishes, big-time 3s,” Jenkins said. “He’s just been a great leader, a guy that’s played with great force, and has produced at a really high-level when his number’s been called. So tonight’s a great example of what Tyus can do, and I’m really proud of him.”
Grizzlies: Host Portland on Wednesday night in their final game before the All-Star break.
Pelicans: Hosts Dallas on Thursday night in the last of six straight games at home.
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