After some early struggles to start the season, the Memphis Grizzlies appear to have found the formula that led to a franchise-record 56 victories in 2012-13.
Zach Randolph scored nine of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and also had 10 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to a 97-86 victory over the slumping Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
Memphis was an efficient team offensively that played strong defense last season. That same formula has worked well in two straight victories that have evened the Grizzlies’ record at 5-5.
Memphis shot just over 55 percent and had a season-best 30 assists. The Grizzlies blocked four shots, played the Kings tough inside, and limited Sacramento to 38 percent shooting.
”It’s where we are as a team, that’s the important thing,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. ”We’re trying to lay the foundation back down to who we are as a team. Zach and Marc (Gasol) were beasts and Mike Conley was really efficient today. "
Gasol had 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds against the Kings, which followed a similar effort Friday night in a victory over the Lakers.
”I always try to be who I am and I always help out,” Gasol said. ”I really don’t care about numbers. I really don’t. Teams go through struggles during stretches of the season. Ours have come to start the season. We just want to keep getting better.”
The Grizzlies led by 20 points in the third quarter and survived a second-half rally by the Kings to win their second straight on their four-game road trip that includes tough games Monday against the Clippers and Wednesday at Golden State.
The Kings cut the margin to 82-79 on Travis Outlaw’s 3-pointer with 7:18 left. But Memphis responded with seven unanswered points for a 10-point lead, then put it away when Randolph’s basket from close range made it 93-82 with 1:29 left.
”Zach is playing well right now,” said Conley, who also had 19 points and nine assists. ”When he’s got it going like that and is in a zone, we try to get him the ball.”
Outlaw helped fuel the Kings’ comeback and scored a season-high 18 points. The Kings have lost two straight and seven of eight. Isaiah Thomas added 15 points and Marcus Thornton had 12.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who came into the game averaging 22.8 points, had nine points in 19 minutes. Cousins and the rest of the Kings starters, with the exception of Luc Mbah a Moute, sat out the final 19 1/2 minutes.
”That’s a talented team that went to the Western Conference finals last season,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. ”They shoot 56 percent and get 48 points in the paint. We can’t give forth the effort we were tonight if we want to compete against a team like that.”
Outlaw, who didn’t play in the first half, made his first five shots before finally misfiring in the fourth quarter. He made 6-of-9 shots overall, including a pair of 3s.
Outlaw came off the bench for 11 points and Thomas added eight in the third quarter, when the Kings finally demonstrated some offense and outscored Memphis 31-27 to pull within 74-65 heading into the fourth.
The Grizzlies came out strong in the third quarter and built the lead to 61-41. Appearing to be upset with his defense, Malone pulled his starters with just under eight minutes left. The Sacramento reserves outscored the Grizzlies 24-13 the remainder of the quarter.
”The biggest thing I saw was effort,” Malone said. ”We had guys playing like they cared.”
Gasol had 13 points for the Grizzlies in the opening half, when they held a 47-34 lead. Cousins had nine points for the Kings, who shot 32 percent.
It was a sluggish start to the second quarter for both teams, who combined for nine points in the first six minutes of the period.
Despite the slow start, Memphis still outscored the Kings 22-16 in the quarter.
”Once again I thought out offense dictated our defense,” said Kings point guard Greivis Vasquez, who had eight points, all in the first half. ”We just have to be more mature and understand if we don’t make shots we have to put out effort defensively.”
Notes: Tony Allen was the fourth Memphis starter in double figures with 12 points. .. Patrick Patterson, who began the season as the Kings’ starting forward, bruised his left knee in Friday’s loss to Detroit and was unavailable against the Grizzlies. . Reserve guard Jerryd Bayless made all three shots and had seven first- quarter points in just under three minutes of playing time. . The Kings had only three points during a near 7-minute stretch in the first half. … An elbow from Gasol in the first quarter resulted in a cut above the right eye and 10 stitches for Kings reserve Chuck Hayes. He returned to play in the third quarter sporting a headband to cover the wound.