MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies certainly hope their personnel issues don’t resurrect anytime soon. The Grizzlies beat visiting Houston, 103-94, to get back to the grit-and-grind team the FedEx Forum’s third straight sellout likes to see.
For one night anyway.
Memphis (48-24) gave up 121 points the last time it faced Houston. That was in December. Over the past seven days, the Grizzlies allowed more than 100 points in three straight games, two of them road losses at Washington and New York.
Point guard Mike Conley said the triple-digit talk may not be an issue, maybe only something for the media to discuss. Or maybe there is something to it.
“That might be just y’all,” Conley said, then smiled. “We’re just worried about winning the game, however we can win it. But numbers don’t lie, so if we can hold a team under 100, we normally get the win. So hopefully we can continue doing that.”
The numbers don’t lie and Memphis is 22-1 when it scores at least 100.
For one night, the Grizzlies got back to the team that is second in the NBA in points allowed. Houston, which came in as the second-best scoring team in the league at 106 points, never led. Memphis won its 11th straight at home the way it has to win, behind bigs Zach Randolph and hobbling Marc Gasol. The duo had 21 points apiece and Memphis scored 56 in the paint.
“The Grizzlies are going to have a higher chance of winning because of their higher percentage of shots,” Rockets guard Jeremy Lin said. “Tonight they played at the pace that they wanted.”
That’s what Memphis has to do to win — something it doesn’t do in losses and something it may not be sure it can do without Gasol (abdominal tear) at full speed.
Randolph got his 41st double-double, 21 points and 12 boards. It was his first 20-point game since Feb. 27. Conley had 15 points and 10 assists as he continues to climb Memphis’ leadership ladder. Tony Allen had 16 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting. Allen’s points are a bonus. His defense is expected. He says the win was reflective of a renewed focus in practice.
“Guys were more concerned about the defensive end, helping the helper, playing inside-out basketball,” Allen said after holding James Harden and Lin to a combined 6-of-18 shooting and 15 points. “We knew that team liked to run-and-gun, and we tried to limit those fast-break points.”
It’s not like Memphis kept itself out of playoff contention in the mini slump. The Grizzlies have clinched a spot, seemingly despite their best efforts not to. Memphis currently sits a half-game back of the Clippers’ fourth spot and a game out of third.
But there are still plenty of challenges to climb the standings with 10 games left.
If the Grizzlies have proven one thing, it’s that they can’t win the 100-point games, at least not enough of them to survive a playoff series. In an earlier eight-game win streak, they allowed 100 points only once. And that was to the Kings hours before the All-Star Break.
Is Gasol good to go? He missed two games last week. In his absence, the Celtics and Wizards hit triple digits.
He surprisingly came back at New York, but clearly isn’t comfortable jumping. He’s comfortable dunking, though, made easier by his 7-foot-1 frame. He’s also comfortable passing, exemplified by a no-look pass to Conley for a three-point play in the third quarter Friday that gave the Grizzlies a 72-60 lead. Gasol jokingly — maybe — wouldn’t even fess up to being injured after the game and said he is 100 percent. He received no argument from Lin.
“He played really well tonight. He was moving, passing. … He was a problem for us,” Lin said.
Friday, the Grizzlies frustrated more than Lin. Harden, who averages more than 26 points, left without speaking to the media. Allen said that was a team thing.
“I don’t want to take all the credit. Obviously, it is what I do. I’m a lock-down defender,” he said. “I have to credit the bigs. They were helping me in the pick-and-rolls.”
Memphis fans are as excited as they were when the doors of this building opened in 2004, the last time Memphis could boast three straight sellouts. The Grizzlies are 5-0 in home sellouts this season. But there is plenty of work to be done if the playoffs are going to start here or west of the Mississippi.