Rudy Gay scored 23 points, Mike Conley added 14 in his return and Memphis finished with 72 points in the paint as the Grizzlies overpowered the Sacramento Kings, 113-96, Tuesday night at FedExForum. OJ Mayo (16) and Sam Young (20) both contributed double figures off the bench as Memphis improved to 2-3 while dealing with the loss of Zach Randolph.
Trailing 9-7 early in the first, Memphis locked down on defense and found its groove on offense, thanks in part to seven-straight points from Gay. The Grizzlies then reeled off a run that left them with a 23-15 lead after a Conley triple. The Grizzlies shot 58 percent in the opening period, led by 11 from Gay, and took a 31-17 lead over the Kings.
Memphis extended its lead to as many as 17 in the second period when Mayo connected on a jumper from the elbow to make it 37-20, but sloppy play and turnovers would allow Sacramento to creep back in the game. Three-pointers from Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw sandwiched around an old-fashioned three-point play from Tyreke Evans closed the lead to 41-32. The Grizzlies then turned the ball over four times in the final two minutes of the half, and Sacramento finally caught up on two free throws by Isaiah Thomas, which netted the game at 50 with 16.1 seconds to go. Gay was able to convert a last-second tip-in off a missed jumper by Young however, and Memphis regained a 52-50 lead heading into halftime.
J.J. Hickson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in to tie the game at 52 coming out of the break before a turnaround jumper by Marc Gasol sparked a 9-0 run that turned the game in Memphis’ favor. An alley-oop dunk by Gay on the next possession coupled with fastbreak layups from Conley and Tony Allen pushed the lead to 61-52 and forced the Kings to take a timeout. Memphis was able to sustain the momentum for most of the quarter and took an 87-68 lead into the final period.
Thought the Grizzlies had to play their starters well into the fourth quarter, the Kings never really threatened. Fredette and Thomas scored late buckets for Sacramento, but the Grizzlies held on and closed the game out 113-96.
1. As the game turned…
Sacramento struck first in the second half to tie the game at 52, but a tough, turnaround jumper by Gasol on the next Grizzlies possession sparked a 9-0 run that put Memphis back in control of the game. After the Gasol jumper, Young came up with a steal and then found Gay for a thunderous alley-oop. Conley, who started the second half, came up with a loose ball on the next Kings’ possession and went coast-to-coast for an and-one layup. Allen capped the run with a fastbreak layup on a feed from Conley.
2. Grinders of the night: Sam Young and OJ Mayo
After being relegated to mop-up minutes, Young had his best game of the season for Memphis, posting 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals coming off the bench. Mayo also stepped up for Memphis, scoring 16 points on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting clip. The ability of one or both of those guys to give meaningful minutes on a nightly basis will have a huge impact on the team.
Though the Grizzlies won on Tuesday, those involved with Memphis basketball at any level were saddened by the news that former Memphis Tigers coach and Hoops LP President Gene Bartow passed away. Grizzlies head coach had the following to say about Bartow:
“I want to give my prayers and condolences out to Gene Bartow’s family,” Hollins said. “Gene was a great member of our community, an outstanding person, an outstanding coach and a great friend to me since I’ve been with this organization. I’m going to miss him.”
Even without Zach Randolph, Memphis was still able to establish a dominant inside presence and finish with 72 points in the paint. Marc Gasol was a bruiser down low all night against a relatively unimpressive Sacramento frontcourt and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. The Grizzlies still struggled with outside shooting – making just two on the night – so racking up big numbers down low is crucial.
5. Stat of the Night: Mike Conley’s +/-
Memphis was +27 against the Kings with Mike Conley on the floor. The fifth-year point guard missed time after suffering an ankle injury early against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jeremy Pargo had been a better than serviceable backup, but Conley showed his importance while on the floor tonight.
The Grizzlies now have three-straight games on the road as they will play their first back-to-back game of the season tomorrow night in Minnesota. Memphis then takes on Utah Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 8. The Grindhouse will be rocking again on Tuesday, Jan. 10 as Memphis hosts an early season rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.
-Photo by Justin Ford
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