Grizz overcome 41 from ‘Melo

The Memphis Grizzlies’ recent success at home has come against some

of the league’s top teams.

And Zach Randolph has been playing like one of the league’s

top forwards.

Randolph had 32 points and a career-high 24 rebounds to help

the Grizzlies hold on for a 102-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets

on Sunday.

In the last three weeks, Memphis has claimed victories over

the Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and now the Nuggets, all

of whom sit atop their respective divisions. They even played the

Boston Celtics, who own the second-best record in the NBA, to a

five-point game.

“This builds our confidence up a lot,” Randolph said. “We’ve

got young guys, and when we win games like this, this is believing

in us [as a] team that we can beat anybody.”

Randolph’s rebound total, which included nine on the

offensive end, was the highest in the league this season. His work

down the stretch allowed Memphis to weather a Denver rally that got

the Nuggets within two points with 3:22 left when Carmelo Anthony

hit an 18-foot jumper.

Randolph’s 3-pointer with 43 seconds left, only his third 3

of the season, gave Memphis a 100-91 lead.

Memphis coach Lionel Hollins repeated his assessment of

Randolph being a “beast.”

“I think Zach is in a great comfort place,” Hollins said.

“When he came here, we needed his veteran leadership, scoring and

rebounding. He just fit like a glove, and that makes it nice for

both sides when the situation is just made to order for you.”

Rudy Gay added 19 points for Memphis, which snapped an

eight-game losing streak to Denver. Marc Gasol had 14 points and 13

rebounds, and O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley scored 11 apiece.

Anthony led the Nuggets with 41 points and Nene finished with

19. Chris Andersen had a season-high 14 rebounds.

“They jumped on us early. It was a wake-up call, especially

for me, to be down like that,” Anthony said.

Memphis almost squandered a 23-point lead in the first half

as Anthony carried Denver in the second, scoring 25 of his points

after the break.

The Nuggets were playing their second straight game without

point guard Chauncey Billups, their second-leading scorer. Billups

is recovering from a left groin strain. The Nuggets have lost both

games.

“We’re a little short-handed,” coach George Karl said. “It

seems like, right now, any time we lose one of our top four or five

guys, it doesn’t seem like we get a lightning bolt from the

change.”

Memphis scored the first four points of the second quarter to

take a 37-19 lead. The Grizzlies led by as many as 23.

But Memphis was sloppy at the start of the second half,

letting the Nuggets score the first seven points in the third

quarter and cut the deficit to 69-60 on an Anthony dunk.

Memphis still managed to carry an 80-67 lead into the fourth

quarter, and the Nuggets’ effort to pull even after being 23 points

down took its toll down the stretch.

“We dug a huge hole on ourselves in the first half,” Karl

said. “Sometimes, you don’t have enough energy or the ball bounces

the wrong way or Zach Randolph has a helluva game. They win because

you dug a hole too deep in the first half.”

The Grizzlies ended the game with a 56-38 advantage on the

boards and a 64-44 margin in the paint.

Memphis has won 11 of its last 18 games after starting the

season 1-8. The stretch, and the teams the Grizzlies have beaten,

continues to reflect a change in a team that in recent years has

been at the bottom of the standings.

“We believe we can beat anybody,” Gay said. “We’re going out

and making a mark for ourselves, making a name for ourselves.

“I think in the future, people will know that Memphis is

going to be one of those good teams in the West.”

Notes: Ty Lawson, the rookie out of North

Carolina, earned his first career start, replacing Billups. …

Denver is the only division leader in the NBA with a losing record

on the road. The Nuggets dropped to 7-8 away from home with

Sunday’s loss. … Memphis’ last victory over the Nuggets was a

133-118 decision on April 14, 2007. … Nene and Randolph got

tangled up under the Memphis basket in the fourth, leading to

double technicals. Mayo also got a technical for his part in the

fracas. … Dwight Howard of Orlando previously held the

high-rebound mark in the league this season with 23 against Indiana

on Dec. 14. … Andersen’s previous high for rebounds this season

was 11, on five occasions.