Grizzlies end 7-game skid, keep T’wolves reeling
The Memphis Grizzlies doubled their win total for the season and extended the Minnesota Timberwolves’ misery.
Marc Gasol scored 17 points and matched his career high with 16 rebounds, and the Grizzlies ended a seven-game losing streak with a 97-87 victory over the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Minnesota lost its 10th straight.
“It was a big win for us,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We lost seven in a row in every kind of way. (Minnesota) was a team that was struggling like us, which meant that there was an opportunity for one of us to come away with a win.”
Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo led Memphis with 19 points apiece, and rookie Sam Young had a season-high 15 on 7-of-11 shooting. Mike Conley added 10 points and seven assists.
Gasol hit all eight of his shots from the field, but neither team did well from three-point range. Minnesota missed 14 of its 15 shots, while Memphis was only slightly better at two of 14.
Corey Brewer scored 16 points for Minnesota, while Ryan Gomes and Ryan Hollins each finished with 15. Reserve Ramon Sessions added a season-high 13 points and eight assists, while rookie guard Jonny Flynn scored 10 points but was five of 14 from the field.
“We wanted to do a good job of protecting our paint, and it didn’t happen in critical parts of the game,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. “It’s kind of who we are as a team. We do things well in pockets.”
Memphis built its largest lead of the game at 14 near the midway point of the fourth quarter, and still held the advantage with 3:42 left on Gasol’s 10-footer.
Memphis then weathered seven unanswered points from the Timberwolves, capped by Flynn’s drive with 2 minutes left. That cut the lead to 87-80, but Memphis was able to hang on for its second win of the season.
“We sat down as a team and had a long discussion about what we needed to do to get better,” Conley said. “One was to be mentally prepared before the game, and then go out there and work as hard as we can. Everybody from the first guy to the last guy come in there with 100 percent effort. That’s what wins games.”
The teams played even during the first half, neither reaching a double-digit advantage. There were 13 ties and nine lead changes in the first two quarters.
Gay had 11 for Memphis, and Gasol’s 10 included a hook with 4.3 seconds remaining in the half that left the teams tied at 45.
Brewer scored 11 for the Timberwolves, connecting on five of his 10 shots as Minnesota shot 51 percent.
Memphis, meanwhile, shot 50 percent, and that included Zach Randolph missing all five of his shots. But the Grizzlies were hindered by 12 turnovers that contributed to 17 Minnesota points.
“The first half, we came out and we were running sets and playing pretty well,” Brewer said. “In the third quarter, we had a letdown. That’s how it’s been going all season.”
Memphis has struggled in the third quarter throughout the season, outscoring opponents only once. Against Minnesota, the Grizzlies were able to win the period 23-18, carrying a 68-63 lead into the final 12 minutes.
“We wanted to come out aggressive and set the tone early,” Conley said of the change in attitude for the third. “We thought if we could do that, we could give ourselves some breathing room.”
The Grizzlies’ fourth-quarter start was capped by Young’s three-point play, giving Memphis the first double-digit cushion for either team.
Like Memphis, the Timberwolves are young and still learning to execute as a team. They are playing without key frontline players Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, and adjusting to the first season under Rambis’ leadership.
“We have to know our mistakes. Good shots versus bad shots,” said Minnesota’s Hollins, in his fourth year out of UCLA. “We might have to run through a little more. We’re definitely learning as a team.”
And for a change, Memphis was able to celebrate.
“We’ll turn it into a winning streak. Why not?” Mayo said
NOTES: Memphis signed former Indiana Pacer G Jamaal Tinsley earlier Saturday. He’s expected to join the team early next week. Minnesota has not won since opening night, when it beat New Jersey 95-93. Both teams were without two of their bigger name players. Memphis G Allen Iverson was not with the team. Meanwhile, Jefferson did not travel to Memphis. Both teams cited personal issues as the reason for the absences. Love, who is out with an injured left hand, originally was drafted by the Grizzlies. He was sent to the Timberwolves in a draft night trade that led to Mayo landing in Memphis.