Grizzlies, Conley trump Pelicans’ pair of double-doubles
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While veteran guard Mike Conley scored 27 points in the Memphis Grizzlies’ season-opening 103-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at FedExForum, he had things other than his own performance on his mind.
First, the play of rookie swingman Dillon Brooks, who lasted until the 45th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Oregon. Brooks had 19 points, five rebounds and four steals in his NBA debut and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
“Man, somebody made a mistake not drafting him,” Conley said. “He can play.”
Marc Gasol, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, was equally impressed with Brooks.
“Great instincts for the game on both ends of the floor,” Gasol said.
Although the Grizzlies led only by two points at halftime — and Conley said it felt like they were down double digits — they opened a nine-point lead after three quarters and stretched it to as many as 14 in the fourth quarter.
While the Pelicans got big numbers from Anthony Davis (33 points, 18 rebounds) and DeMarcus Cousins (28 points, 10 rebounds, career-high seven blocks), they never got closer than nine points in the fourth quarter and their offense often was disjointed.
“Toward the end, our ball movement got pretty stagnant,” Davis said. “We had one-pass shots, two-pass shots.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, noting they had eight assists in the first quarter but just seven the rest of the game, said, “I just thought we played a little bit too much in isolation, and they’re a very good defensive team.”
On a night when the capacity crowd at FedExForum saved the loudest ovations for former Grizzlies player Tony Allen, who is now a reserve with the Pelicans, fans also booed Memphis forward Chandler Parsons.
Parsons, who signed a $94 million contract before last season, suffered through an injury-marred first season in Memphis. He didn’t even start and at one point was 1 of 5 from the free-throw line and had one point. He finished with six points.
For his part, Parsons called the booing “tasteless” and said, “I’ll just go into every game with the mentality it’s a road game, if that’s how it’s going to be.”
Fans mock-cheered his one made free throw but booed him several times during the game.
“I wasn’t happy with that at all,” Gasol said. “He’s one of us. Booing Chandler is like booing Mike or myself.”
When Allen entered the game with 3:13 left in the first quarter, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and again after a video board tribute. He missed the only shot he took in just 11 minutes and had two rebounds and two blocks.
“I had so many jitters in my body — butterflies, I was a little nervous,” Allen said. “It’s a lot of love ... I appreciate that. I’m just kind of hurt we lost.”
The Pelicans shot 38 percent from the floor and went 7 of 25 from 3-point range. Memphis shot 42.4 percent from the field while going 9 of 29 from distance.
Memphis had a 53-8 advantage in bench points, including Brooks’ output, 11 points from guard Tyreke Evans and 10 points from forward Brandan Wright.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys,” said Memphis coach David Fizdale, adding of Brooks, “We’ve got some things to work on with him and develop, but I trust him in a game.”
Cousins said the loss of point guard Rajon Rondo in the preseason did the Pelicans no favors.
“It sucks going through training camp playing a certain type of way and then boom,” Cousins said. “We’d gotten used to playing a certain way with the guy, then you have to adjust. That’s no excuse for the ball movement and (how) we defended.”
NOTES: Among the highlights from Memphis rooking swingman Dillon Brooks’ 19-point NBA debut was a fade-away jumper in the lane in traffic. “I was a little scared,” Brooks said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to make this shot or Coach Fizz (David Fizdale) is taking me out.’ But it just felt natural and I just took what the defense gave me.” ... New Orleans big men DeMarcus Cousins (46) and Anthony Davis (49) combined for 95 double-doubles last season; Cousins played 55 games with Sacramento and then 17 for New Orleans after a midseason trade. They started where the left off as Davis went for 33 points and 18 rebounds and Cousins for 28 points and 10 boards. ... Memphis SF JaMychal Green left the game in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return.