Mark Jackson figured his Golden State Warriors could be in for a tough night, calling the Memphis Grizzlies ”the best frontline in basketball” hours before tipoff.
At this point, the Warriors coach should know.
Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol had their way inside on both ends of the court to help the Grizzlies complete a 3-0 road trip with a 94-87 victory over the Warriors on Wednesday night. Memphis, which has won eight straight against Golden State, outscored the Warriors 60-34 in the paint.
”Those are our horses,” said Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who had 10 points and four rebounds off the bench. ”We ride those guys.”
Randolph finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Gay scored 18 points and Gasol added 12 points and nine rebounds as Memphis made its quick West Coast swing more memorable. The Grizzlies (23-10) also won at Phoenix on Sunday and at Sacramento on Monday, building a 1 1/2-game lead over Golden State (22-12) for fourth place in the Western Conference.
”We needed this,” said Gay, who also had six assists and five rebounds. ”We’ve been going through some ups and downs and had some lapses, some kind of lapse games. We lost a couple at home. We had to come out here for ourselves to get three out of three.”
Consider it done.
Stephen Curry scored 24 points and Klay Thompson had 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists as the Warriors lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season.
After falling behind by five late in the fourth quarter, Curry made a pull-up 3-pointer and Thompson drew a fast-break foul to set up the tying free throws. Gasol answered with a reverse layup under heavy pressure, pumping his fist in celebration to give the Grizzlies the lead again.
In the end, though, defense sent Memphis home a winner.
Mike Conley stole David Lee’s pass before getting fouled and making both free throws. On the next possession, Jerryd Bayless blocked Jarrett Jack’s shot and that led to a layup for Conley that gave the Grizzlies an 88-82 lead with 1:51 remaining.
Lee followed with a jumper, but Gay answered back with an 18-footer. Curry’s 3-pointer brought the Warriors within three for a moment before Randolph made two free throws to finish off Golden State with 13.2 seconds left.
”You play them, you’re going to get better,” Jackson said. ”They execute you to death and playing them is going to force you to get better.”
The Warriors were coming off their most lopsided loss of the season, 115-89 at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night. They fell to 9-2 after a loss this season.
The length of Randolph, Gay and Gasol gave Golden State fits on both ends of the floor.
Memphis took advantage of several second-chance opportunities and started to pull away behind its big men in the second quarter. On one play, Randolph grabbed two straight offensive rebounds – with Lee falling to the floor – before he finished a layup through a crowd of defenders to highlight a 16-2 run to put the Grizzlies up 45-32.
Two late 3-pointers and a reverse layup by Curry eased a horrible defensive half for the Warriors some. After shooting 54 percent from the floor and going ahead by 14 points, Memphis only led 55-46 at the break.
Golden State mixed in some matchup zones and held the Grizzlies to 5 for 18 shooting in the third quarter, getting a spark from Thompson’s two 3s and Jack’s aggressiveness off the bench. Jack got Allen in the air on a pump-fake and made a long jumper while getting fouled to start a three-point play, and Curry swished another from the perimeter to tie the game at 74 midway through the fourth.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins sent his frontline back in the game and the trio overwhelmed the Warriors when it mattered most.
”That’s the strength of their team, is grinding in the paint and offensive rebounding,” Lee said. ”It’s disappointing, because that’s been one of our strengths throughout the season, and we’ve just got to come back and do a better job of it next game.”
Notes: Warriors C Andrew Bogut did some light shooting and jogging before the game. He has not played since Nov. 7 while he recovers from the lingering effects of microfracture surgery on his left ankle. … Grizzlies G Josh Selby was not with the team for personal reasons. … Memphis also beat the Warriors 104-94 in Golden State’s home opener Nov. 2. … Memphis hosts San Antonio on Friday, while the Warriors welcome Portland.