MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Zach Randolph isn’t the tallest guy on the floor and can’t jump the highest, yet he’s one of the top rebounders in the league.
Randolph had 23 points and 20 rebounds while Rudy Gay added 22 points to help the Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Phoenix Suns 109-99 on Monday night.
“I think it’s positioning,” the 6-foot-9 Randolph said of his rebounding strategy. “Guys are strong and all those guys are athletic. But that is just a little bit of it. It’s about getting position and having a nose for the ball. Hit the guy a little, and know where the ball is going to come out.”
Randolph was 9 of 16 from the field and led six Grizzlies in double figures. The points and rebounds were season highs for the Memphis forward, and the fifth 20-20 game in his career.
“Zach’s going to do that to a lot of people, not just us. He’s a tremendous player,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “Probably as good an offensive rebounder as there is in the league. He’s a real cerebral player. He knows angles, does a great job of using his body, and he’s got an unbelievable soft touch.”
O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley scored 16 apiece for the Grizzlies, while rookie Xavier Henry scored 14 points off the bench. Marc Gasol finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Grant Hill led the Suns with 19 points and Jason Richardson finished with 17. Hakim Warrick and Steve Nash had 16 points apiece. Nash also had 11 assists.
But the Suns were hampered by 23 turnovers, including a dozen steals by Memphis, which leads the league with 12.6 swipes a game.
“That’s (23) chances we don’t get to shoot the basketball,” Gentry said. “If we are managing our turnovers, and we’ve got 10 or 12 turnovers, that’s 10 more possessions that we can shoot it at the basket. Make five of them, and it’s a different story. We’ve just got to do a better job in that department.”
Memphis led by as many as 18 early in the fourth period, but Goran Dragic sparked a rally and got the Suns within 97-90, when he scored on a layup off a Memphis turnover with just over 5 minutes left.
The Grizzlies answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Gay and Conley as the Suns starters waited at the scorers table to re-enter the game. Phoenix never threatened the rest of the way.
“They held on at the end,” Warrick said. “We had an uphill battle the whole game. They made the plays down the stretch to keep us from winning.”
Both teams shot well to open the game, but Memphis began misfiring, while the Suns starters maintained a 60 percent shooting pace through much of the first quarter.
Despite the early accuracy, the Suns mishandled the ball for a handful of early turnovers, part of a dozen in the first half. Meanwhile, Memphis was struggling from inside, missing stickbacks and layups.
Randolph already had his third double-double of the season by halftime with 17 points and 10 rebounds, helping Memphis take a 55-52 lead at the break. It was a changed Randolph, who had missed four games after suffering a lower back contusion in an opening night loss to Atlanta, and is still recovering.
“It is huge to have the guy that cleans up all the boards and gives us extra possession,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
Warrick sparked the Suns off the bench with 14 points, hitting all five of his shots in the half. Hill led the Suns scorers with 15 in the half.
Memphis opened the second half on a 17-8 run to stretch the lead to 72-60, the largest at that point. The advantage would eventually reach 13 in the period before the Suns began chipping away.
A 10-2 run would pull Phoenix back within striking distance as Richardson recorded 10 in the quarter. But Gay had 13 in the stanza, including a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired late in the quarter, giving Memphis an 88-75 lead entering the fourth.
The Grizzlies would stretch the margin to 93-75 in the early stages of the final period.
NOTES: The Suns entered the game having won 14 of last 17 in the series, including 6 of last 8 in Memphis. Nash had two 3-pointers, leaving him five away from 1,500 for his career. Richardson has scored at least 15 points in seventh straight game, the longest such streak in his career.