ORLANDO, Fla. — The Memphis Grizzlies have a magic number when it comes to making the playoffs — and they hit it on Wednesday night.
Zach Randolph had 20 points, Courtney Lee added 17 and the Memphis Grizzlies held off the Orlando Magic 86-81 for their 29th win of the season. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs every season when they win 29 or more games before the All-Star break. They’ve also never made the postseason when winning fewer than 29 games before the season’s midpoint.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 13 points in the second half before having to fight off several Magic runs down the stretch. They survived, but did lose center Marc Gasol in the third quarter when he limped off the court after aggravating a left knee injury.
"We just stuck with it was the most important thing," Grizzlies forward Tayshaun Prince said. "When Marc went out, everybody was kind of hurt by it. … But this is definitely a good win going into the break."
Gasol didn’t appear to be in a lot of pain, but he will have an MRI on the knee as a precaution. Grizzlies coach David Joerger said afterward that he is optimistic.
"I’m really proud of our first half of the season, and then to come out and lose Marc for a little bit — hopefully not a lot," he said.
Memphis beat the Magic for the sixth straight time and enters the break having won eight of its last 11.
Nik Vucevic had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Magic. Tobias Harris added 13 points.
But they committed 14 turnovers that led to 19 Memphis points.
Orlando had won three straight and five in a row at home.
"It was our game, I thought, right there. We let one slip away," Harris said.
Following the Grizzlies’ win over Washington on Tuesday, Joerger acknowledged his team was mentally tired.
It showed as the game wore on Wednesday against Orlando.
First they lost Gasol, then after leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Magic stormed back and briefly took the lead in the third quarter. Orlando trailed by three entering the final period.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn began the fourth with the young, quick lineup of Harris, Victor Oladipo, E’Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn that had been so effective in back-to-back wins, over Oklahoma City and Indiana
Orlando surged at the outset, but Memphis weathered the rally and got two free-throws from Randolph that put the Grizzlies up 78-77 with 4 minutes to play.
Memphis was leading 80-79 when Jameer Nelson’s 3-pointer bounced off the back of the rim and was rebounded by the Grizzlies.
Lee got it and raced into the front court before a clear-path foul was called on Arron Afflalo with 35.7 seconds left. The call was upheld after an official review.
Lee connected on both free throws to make it 82-79.
Memphis retained possession and wound down the clock before getting Randolph free in the paint for a layup to stretch the lead to five.
The Magic called timeout, but they could only muster a long 3-pointer on the other end by Oladipo that caromed off the backboard and was rebounded by Memphis.
The final review was one of three in the final 1:26 of the game.
"The refs did the right thing in going back and looking at a couple of them so if it happens, I’d rather have them go back and look at it than just make the call and stick with it," Lee said.
"One of them, they gave us the ball and another one was a clear-path foul. So it was 2 for 3. I’ll take it."
Vaughn said he’s looking forward to seeing how his team responds with six of their first seven on the road after the break.
"I think we get an immediate test," Vaughn said. "Back to the grind we go and a great challenge for our group to see if we can take some of the things we learned at home … and see if we can kind of duplicate it on the road."
Joerger said the break is coming at the perfect time.
"We’re exhausted. We’re making mistakes toward the ends of games that are just mental mistakes … those are exhaustion mistakes," he said. "It was a slugfest, I thought at halftime maybe we’d get to 84. We got 86 so I’m fired up."
NOTES:The Grizzlies improved to 6-4 this season in the second night of a back-to-back. … Memphis G Mike Conley missed his seventh straight game with a sprained right ankle.