MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Jahlil Okafor stepped into the starting lineup for the injured Anthony Davis and had his best game of the season.
Okafor scored a season-high 20 points, matched a season best with 10 rebounds and added two blocks to help the balanced New Orleans Pelicans beat the reeling Memphis Grizzlies 105-85 on Monday.
The Pelicans played their first game since announcing Davis would miss 1-2 weeks with a left index finger sprain. Okafor filled in nicely.
“My teammates were very supportive of me, rooting me on, cheering me on, talking to me on the bench. That made my job real easy,” Okafor said.
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Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic scored 21 points each and Julius Randle had 20 for New Orleans, which snapped a two-game skid. The Pelicans put the game away in the second half, outscoring Memphis 51-35, including a 13-1 rally late in the third. New Orleans shot 51 percent in the final two quarters and made 8 of 14 from outside the arc after a poor-shooting first half from 3-point range.
“That second half, third quarter was huge for us after I made a couple of 3s,” said Mirotic, who was 4 of 8 from outside the arc in the second half. “When we play this way unselfishly, everything is easier.”
Despite Davis’ absence and his 13.3 rebounds a game, the Pelicans dominated the boards 50-35.
Meanwhile, Memphis has lost six straight and 12 of 13. Several games ago, the theme of the skid was frustration; Monday it was humiliation, particularly since the game was part of the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities.
“It’s really embarrassing on a day like today that I think is very special to all of us,” said point guard Mike Conley, who had 20 points and eight assists for Memphis. “For us to play the way we did — especially in the second half — is unacceptable.”
The Grizzlies have injury problems, and there has been drama from locker-room scuffles to jettisoning high-paid, oft-injured Chandler Parsons from the team.
“We’re kind of beat,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the Memphis malaise. “We allow one play to impact the next play and then it impacts the next play. The next thing you know, it’s one of those runs that are happening.”
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 22 points, as Memphis was limited to 38 percent shooting in the game, after making 10 of 20 in the first quarter.
Pelicans: Played the final game of a five-game trip. … Have played three times in Memphis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. … Okafor started his fourth game of the season. … New Orleans was 1 of 12 on 3-pointers in the first half, but finished the game 9 of 26. … Okafor’s previous season high was 17 points against Milwaukee on Dec. 19. … Double-doubles by Okafor, Holiday and Randle marked the 11th time this season three New Orleans players recorded double-doubles. It was Okafor’s first double-double since Feb. 25, 2017.
Grizzlies: Are now 7-10 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. … Played the opening game of a season-high five-game homestand. … Gasol returned after missing the Grizzlies’ loss Saturday in Toronto with back soreness. … F Omri Casspi was a late scratch (illness).
Former stars Chris Bosh, Wayne Embry, Candace Parker and Bill Walton were honored during the day’s festivities as this year’s 14th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award winners. The quartet was selected for its “dedicated and significant contributions to civil and human rights and for laying the foundation for future leaders through their career in sports in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Pelicans: Return home after five-game road trip to face Detroit on Wednesday.
Grizzlies: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.
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