MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — After seven games off, a well-rested Jrue Holiday matched his best scoring night of the season and helped New Orleans snap the league’s longest winning streak.
Holiday scored 36 points in his return from a left elbow injury as the Pelicans set a franchise record with 21 3-pointers, beating Memphis 126-116 Monday in the Grizzlies’ annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Game. Memphis had won seven straight.
Holiday, who hadn’t played since Jan. 4, converted 12 of 18 from the field, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range. Brandon Ingram scored 25 points and Nicolo Melli added 15, including a trio of 3-pointers.
“Load management’s crazy,” Holiday said with a chuckle about his return. “Honestly, it felt good to be back out there. You see how well the team’s been doing. They’ve been fighting and playing good teams and beating good teams. … I just really wanted to be back out there with them.”
Dillon Brooks led Memphis, matching his season high with 31 points. Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 19 points and Ja Morant had 16 points and nine assists.
Memphis looked nothing like the team that had won seven in a row. From early in the game, the Pelicans seemed to get to most 50-50 balls. New Orleans was shooting better from the floor and converting 3-pointers. By halftime, the Pelicans had already surpassed their average of 14 3-pointers a game and led 69-50.
“They played great, and we just didn’t have it today. Just timing off and all of that,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Fortunately, we haven’t had many of these nights.”
New Orleans built a 25-point lead in the second half before a late rally brought the Grizzlies within 121-116 with 1:28 left. But Ingram scored on a drive and JJ Reddick (10 points) converted a 3-pointer for the final margin.
“We just kept playing until the buzzer sounded,” Morant said. “They had some tough baskets late to seal the win.”
For New Orleans, the return of Holiday was a prelude to Wednesday when Zion Williamson, the top pick in last year’s draft, plays his first regular-season game after missing half the season with a right knee injury. The Pelicans have won three of the last four and are 11-5 in their last 16.
“It’s going to be a circus and everyone knows that,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “What we have to do is focus on the task at hand and that is playing a really good San Antonio team.”
Pelicans: Cs Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor (both with low back soreness) sat out. That kept Favors’ streak of 19 straight made field goals over the past two games intact. The string is the longest in the NBA this season. … Holiday’s seven 3-pointers were a career high. He had made six 3s twice previously.
Grizzlies: The franchise recognized former athletes Doug Williams, Robert Parish, Sheryl Swoopes and Caron Butler with its 15th annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Awards. … The Grizzlies fell short of the franchise record of eight straight wins, done four previous times. … It was the first time Memphis has lost this season when Brooks scored 20 points. Memphis was 13-0 in those games. … Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 11 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season.
With centers Favors and Okafor out, Gentry realized in pregame he would be short-handed against Valanciunas, the Grizzlies’ bulky 6-foot-11 center. “If anybody wants to go in and wrestle with Valanciunas about 15-18 minutes, we’ll let you do that,” Gentry said.
Asked how Williamson will fit in the Pelicans’ rotation, Gentry said: “I think he’ll pretty much play like he did in the preseason. I don’t foresee a ton of adjustments. We’ll stick him out there and play him.”
Pelicans: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in Williamson’s debut.
Grizzlies: Travel to Boston on Wednesday to play the Celtics.