The Memphis Grizzlies took a horrendous start and turned it into one of the best comebacks in franchise history.
The Grizzlies began rebounding from a 25-point deficit in the second quarter, scored 20 unanswered points to start the third and defeated the Dallas Mavericks 90-84 on Wednesday night.
The reversal matched the largest comeback in franchise history. The Grizzlies also came from 25 down to win at Portland on March 25, 2002.
”It was unbelievable,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. ”I felt like we were floating above at another level. I’ve never seen us play so hard and do the things we were doing.
”It seemed like it was a blur, it happened so quick.”
Zach Randolph scored 22 points and Marc Gasol added 21 as the Grizzlies stormed back to win their eighth straight, also matching a franchise-best. Quincy Pondexter finished with 12 and Austin Daye added 10, all in the first half, for Memphis. Gasol had 12 rebounds and Randolph 10 as Memphis outrebounded Dallas 46-34.
After giving up 38 points with poor defense in the first quarter, and seeing the Mavericks build the lead to 25 before halftime, Memphis outscored Dallas 71-46 in the final three quarters.
”It’s a tough loss and a disappointing loss,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ”We all own it, and that’s the truth.”
Shawn Marion led the Mavericks with 16 points, Elton Brand finished with 12 off the bench, and O.J. Mayo added 11, despite going 5 of 13 from the field. Dirk Nowitzki had 10 for Dallas, which dropped its third straight.
Trailing 51-26 with 5:25 to go in the second quarter halftime, the Grizzlies went on a 36-4 run spanning intermission, including the 20-0 rally to open the third quarter.
The Mavericks went more than 8 minutes to start the second half before Mayo split a pair of free throws for Dallas’ first point in the quarter.
”They turned up their defensive pressure, and we didn’t respond to it,” Carlisle said of the rally. ”We had four turnovers at the end of the first half that cut into our lead and gave them momentum. We did a poor job at the start of the third quarter, obviously.”
Memphis would outscore Dallas 24-5 in the third as the Mavericks hit only two shots. The five points were a franchise low for a Memphis opponent in a quarter. The third-quarter tally meant Memphis had crafted a 40-9 run since the 25-point deficit in the second quarter.
”I just think the guys had more of a sense of urgency,” Memphis guard Tony Allen said. ”We put a collective effort into getting those stops and understanding what those guys were running.
”I thought (the Mavericks’) legs got tired coming off a back-to-back. We were able to get the wind up under us, weather the storm and play Grizzlies basketball.”
Memphis would stretch the advantage to nine near the 8-minute mark of the fourth. Dallas pushed back, and when Brand hit a 10-footer with 2:50 left, the Mavericks were within two at 80-78.
But Brand was called for a foul on Gasol, then a technical. Memphis hit all three of the ensuing free throws, and Dallas got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
”They started picking us up and really got into us,” Nowitzki said of Memphis’ turnaround. ”We didn’t really have much going from that point on. They got going and were all over us. That really sums it up. They put the pressure on us, and that was the game.”
The Mavericks, who defeated Memphis 104-83 in Dallas on Jan. 12, sprinted to an early lead on accurate shooting. Dallas connected on nine of its first 11 shots, while Memphis missed its first eight and managed to connect on only three of its first 14.
A lot of the Grizzlies’ misses came from an early aggressive defense from the Mavericks.
The Mavericks hardly looked as though they were the ones playing the second night of a back-to-back. They had much more energy, and Memphis’ lack of defense allowed the Mavericks to have open shots. That meant Dallas still shooting 65 percent near the midway point of the second quarter.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said he noticed the team lagging at practice Tuesday after taking Monday off, then again at shootaround earlier Wednesday. That spilled over to the poor start, he said.
”We aren’t that talented,” Hollins said of the thought that his team can turn it up at any point. ”We have to be prepared. We have to be mentally and physically ready to play.”
Dallas continued to extend the advantage until Memphis started its comeback and trailed 55-42 at the break. Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 14 points. Gasol led Memphis with 13, while Daye came off the bench with 10.
”At halftime, (Hollins) didn’t have too many words,” Randolph said when asked the difference between the halves. ”He said we know what we are doing and knew what we had to do and left it to us. We came together and kept fighting. It was one of probably the best games of the season.”
Conley tried to recall a similar comeback in his career, but struggled for a specific one.
”This one was by far one of the most memorable because it was so out of hand so early,” Conley said, adding: ”It was just unbelievable.”
Notes: The Mavericks’ 38 first-quarter points matched the most allowed by Memphis in a quarter this season. … Nowitzki passed Larry Bird in the first quarter on the career list for made field goals. Nowitzki is now in 21st place. .. Marion grabbed an offensive rebound in the third quarter, giving him 2,500 in his career. … It was the largest Grizzlies comeback at home in franchise history. The previous record was a 23-point comeback on Jan. 29, 2000, against New Jersey when the Grizzlies were in Vancouver. … The 20 unanswered points to open the third, plus four straight to close the first half, was the most consecutive points (24) in franchise history. … The Grizzlies had another eight-game winning streak near the start of the season.