The Memphis Grizzlies think they may have finally turned the corner in a frustrating, injury-plagued season.
Article continues below ...
They certainly turned around their recent fourth-quarter play Saturday night in a 120-99 win over the Denver Nuggets.
"Teams know that we’re going to play hard and, regardless of our record, we’re going to be a tough out," said guard Mike Conley, who had 14 points. "We’ve always been a thorn in the side of a lot of teams. Hopefully, we’re starting to get back to that."
Zach Randolph scored 20 points and the Grizzlies got 62 points from their bench as six Memphis players finished in double figures. Ed Davis led the reserves with 17 points, hitting 6 of 8 shots, while Jerryd Bayless had 15 points. James Johnson matched Conley with 14 points, and Mike Miller added 11, connecting on 3 of 5 outside the arc.
Memphis sent the Nuggets to their sixth straight loss — the longest Denver losing streak since a six-game skid in December, 2004.
"There are a lot of things that we can take away from this game, and the five games before that," said Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, who finished with 19 points. "If we want to win, we have to play harder, that’s what is all comes down to."
The 120 points were a season high for Memphis, and only two less than the most the Nuggets have allowed in a game this season. The teams had played six straight games where the winning margin was single digits, and Saturday’s win was the most lopsided Grizzlies’ victory in the series history.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 20 points, while Jordan Hamilton scored 12.
"It was a thorough ripping all the way through," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said, later adding: "After we had a pretty decent first half, we gave up 30 points in the third quarter and 35 points in the fourth quarter. You are not going to win any games, especially on the road, against any team giving up numbers like that."
The Grizzlies led by seven early in the final period before a 21-5 burst that included 3-pointers by Conley, Miller and Bayless gave them a 23-point lead.
"We turned defense into offense," Conley said. "That was the biggest thing. We got out into transition, and we got easy 3s, pull up 3s. We had drive-and-kick layups and dunks."
Memphis, which is playing without center Marc Gasol and reserve wingman Quincy Pondexter due to injuries, trailed 56-55 at halftime. But the Nuggets began showing the fatigue of playing on the second night of a back-to-back in the third. Denver committed a handful of turnovers in the period, while connecting on 6 of 19 shots from the field.
Meanwhile, Randolph was working inside to help Memphis build its first double-digit lead of the night. He scored 10 points in the third, leading Memphis to an 85-72 advantage entering the fourth.
Memphis has won three of its last four.
"At one point, we were struggling badly," Davis said. "I don’t know how many we lost in a row, but the only thing we could do was win, and that’s what we have to do the rest of the season."
NOTES: The game marked the return of Darrell Arthur to Memphis, but the Nuggets forward didn’t play because of a right quadriceps contusion. Arthur, who spent his first five seasons in Memphis, was traded in the offseason for C Kosta Koufos. … The Nuggets, who lost Friday night to the New Orleans Pelicans, are now 1-5 in the second game of back-to-backs. … Kenneth Faried returned to action after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. He played 13 minutes, finishing with three points and two rebounds.