New Orleans Pelicans: Grades for loss vs. Grizzlies

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans, Jaxson Hayes
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

Whatever play-in tournament aspirations the New Orleans Pelicans still harbored are likely over after a close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

I know that I have gone back and forth on this topic over the past few games, but that’s the nature of this bipolar Pelicans team. When you count them out, they pull you back in. Once you’re reeled back in, then your hopes are promptly extinguished again.

New Orleans deserves credits for rallying late in the season despite an injury-ridden last few months. At one point, Stan Van Gundy was without five of his man players until Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s return in the Pels’ last game. Even now, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Steven Adams are all out of action due to multiple injuries.

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The shorthanded Pelicans battled valiantly against the Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back trip. Again, the game went down to the wire and the Pelicans were within two points with a minute remaining.

Ultimately, this loss, combined with the San Antonio Spurs’ blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks last night, indicates that New Orleans will have to wait another season for putative post-season glory.

With three games left this year, let’s see what’s in store until the end of the regular season. The few contests left are meaningless in terms of the play-in tournament, but they are still important in dictating where New Orleans will land in the lottery and also to build good habits for next season.

Here are the player grades for the Pels’ close loss against the Grizzlies, starting with my personal MVP:

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Grading the best player

. Guard. New Orleans Pelicans. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER. A-

If you were tuning into a Pels game for the first time in a while last night, it would have been impossible to tell that Nickeil Alexander-Walker had just returned from an 18-game absence.

Alexander-Walker was already very good on his comeback against the Philadelphia 76ers but he was even more vital in Monday night’s game. The Canadian combo guard picked up right where he left off.

He injected the Pels with scoring off the bench, looked comfortable with the ball in his hands to create for himself and others, and was crucial in the clutch. Alexander-Walker was the man Stan Van Gundy counted on to make the right plays against the Grizzlies and he did not disappoint.

Over his 24 minutes on the floor, Alexander-Walker was New Orleans’ biggest threat. He kept the ball on a string, made some tough pull-ups, got creative with his finishes around the rim, and kept his teammates involved with a team-high six assists. Down the stretch, Alexander-Walker had a great lob assist and splashed an important pull-up three to bring the game within one possession.

I’ve seen some people say that Alexander-Walker should start the Pels’ last three games. I’m not against that, but I think there’s also a lot to be said about the good dynamic that exists right now with him coming off the bench. Either way, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to show what he is all about.