Grizzlies 99, Timberwolves 86

The Memphis Grizzlies broke out of their road slump the only way
they know how: by locking down on defense.

Marc Gasol scored 21 points and the Grizzlies pulled away in the
fourth quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-86 on Saturday
night.

Mike Conley scored 19, Zach Randolph 14 and Darrell Arthur had
12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for the Grizzlies, who
ended a five-game road losing streak with their 11th straight
victory over Minnesota.

”It’s huge,” Conley said. ”We’ve lost some games we probably
could have won. To beat a team that is playing well like Minnesota
is always a big win. We’re trying to get to that third spot, that
fourth spot. We’re right there if we can keep winning.”

Memphis, playing its seventh game in 11 days, moved a half-game
ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth-best record in the
tight Western Conference and is a half-game behind third-place
Denver.

”You definitely got to beat a team like this, but more
importantly, you’ve got to come out and play your style and try to
play the best way you possibly can,” said forward Tayshaun Prince,
who finished with four points. ”The bench guys showed they have
some legs for us and played with some energy when they came out on
the floor. That’s what was able for us to get the win.”

Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio just missed his second career
triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Derrick
Williams added 19 points for the Timberwolves, who were playing
without center Nikola Pekovic. He missed the game after spraining
his left ankle Friday late in a victory over Oklahoma City after
scoring 22 points and adding 15 rebounds.

”We had shot after shot, but you’ve got to make plays,” said
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. ”I thought defensively we were
hanging in there in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter the
floodgates opened and they started knocking down shots. We couldn’t
get anything going. Had no answer.”

Arthur scored nine points during a 16-2 run to start the final
period, including a 3-pointer and follow shot, to give the
Grizzlies an 81-69 lead with 7 minutes to play. A long jumper and a
3-pointer by Quincey Pondexter stretched the lead to 86-73.

Not only did Memphis start to hit shots, it also picked up its
defensive intensity. Minnesota had just one basket, a 3-pointer by
Rubio, in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter, and also
held the Wolves to 43.3 percent for the game.

”In that second half we kind of just hit a wall offensively,”
said Chase Budinger, who was 1 for 6 from the field. ”Give credit
to them. They’re probably the best defensive team in the league at
taking on the pick-and-roll.”

In his third game back after missing two games with an abdominal
tear, Gasol also had eight rebounds and six assists.

”Right now he’s one of the top three centers in the league.
He’s doing a great job. He knows how to play,” Rubio said. ”He
can assist like a point guard. He shoots the mid-range very well.
And on defense it’s tough because he’s so big. He’s great.”

Rubio had nine points in the first quarter, including five
during a 12-2 run that put Minnesota up 25-17.

The Minnesota reserves pushed the lead to 37-26, including a
desperation 3-pointer by Alexey Shved, before the Grizzlies
tightened up on defense and went on a 13-2 run to get within one
late in the first half. However, Rubio scored on a drive at the
buzzer to give Minnesota a 50-45 halftime lead.

NOTES: The Grizzlies are 20-16 on the road, setting a franchise
record for road wins in a season. … Adelman remains three wins
shy of 1,000 for his career. … Jerryd Bayless finished with two
points for the Grizzlies. He’d been averaging 19.1 points in his
last eight games. … The Timberwolves had seven of their 17
turnovers in the third quarter and went 4 for 14 from the field in
the period, scoring 17 points.