Gasol out as Grizzlies beat Celtics
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There were a lot of Kevin Garnett jerseys inside FedExForum Saturday night. Kevin Garnett’s was not one of them.
Garnett was one of four noticeable players missing from the Memphis and Boston starting lineups, along with Boston’s Courtney Lee and Grizzlies starters Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Randolph was in the doghouse after being late for shootaround. Gasol was on the end of the bench in street clothes after he re-aggravated an abdominal tear Friday at New Orleans. He got the injury on Mar. 6 and is day-to-day.
Memphis beat Boston 110-106 for its 10th straight home win, without their leader in blocks and free throw percentage. Gasol is second in scoring, assists and rebounds and was the only player to start every game this season.
In the thick of the West, Memphis (46-22) will have to learn to play without Gasol, an obvious team leader outside the stats. Teammates talked about losing Gasol as if they lost a girlfriend in high school.
“It’s definitely tough because you have so much trust in a guy like Marc, who’s always there for you,” said Mike Conley, one of seven in double figures for Memphis with 12 points and 10 assists. “You’ve kind of got new guys coming in and out you might not trust as much just yet because you know Marc is gonna be there.
“I think it’s a work in progress. Once we just realize Marc’s not back there anymore, we’ve got to own up to our own man, do a little bit more to stop our guy.”
The Grizzlies were fine for the time being. Jerryd Bayless had a season-high 30 points off the bench. Darrell Arthur had 18, Tayshaun Prince 12.
“They were smaller. That’s for sure. Marc makes them great, as good as anybody in the West,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said.
Paul Pierce had 26 for the Celtics (36-33). Jordan Crawford had 21 off the Boston bench.
Ed Davis drew a start for Memphis and had 11 points and five blocks.
Zach Randolph got his 40th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Allen had 10 points and 10 boards. Randolph’s locker is beside his post partner.
“I know he’s been hurt. In Utah he couldn’t really shoot, jump really,” Randolph said. “It’s very tough, especially for me because we feed off each other. I went through the same thing last year and it’s tough. It’s a chance for DA and Ed and Dexter (Pittman) and all the other guys to be ready. We’re going to be alright.”
Coming off a disappointing loss at New Orleans, the Grizzlies allowed more than 100 points for only the second time at home this season. But only 34 of them came in the paint where Gasol would reside. Memphis scored 48 in the paint.
Memphis led by as many as 21, taking that lead with 7:16 left before Boston went on a 25-6 run.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said he wanted to keep the matchups tight and try and limit Pierce. With Boston minus Garnett, it helped Memphis play around with its lineup with a little extra flex. Prince, Arthur, Davis, Allen and Conley started.
“They were a little bit bigger in terms of somebody’s going to have to guard Paul Pierce,” Hollins said. “I’m comfortable with Tayshaun at the four, but I’m also comfortable when Darrell plays the smaller people at the four.”
Memphis is now three wins shy of tying a franchise record. Losing Gasol may strangely aid its effort to learn to play together. January and February inside additions Davis and Pittman may now have their chance to dent the timecard.
“I think we’re learning their games. We understand where they like the ball, where they can be effective,” Conley said. “Ed’s an athletic monster. He’s blocking shots, running the court and easily can be a good pick-and-roll guy.”
Saturday’s adjustment may have come on the fly. Conley says he didn’t know Gasol wasn’t dressing until nearly tip time. Memphis will have to keep adjusting in a very tight Western Conference race for home court.
If the playoffs started tomorrow, Memphis would face Los Angeles in a road series with the Clippers. San Antonio has a firm grip on the top seed and Oklahoma City has a loose grip on No. 2. But if the three following spots were on an injury report with Gasol, they’d be day-to-day. The Grizzlies’ road to that third spot is a bit bumpier than it is for Los Angeles and Denver, both of which own tie-breaks over Memphis.
“It’s kind of crazy to watch the standings. I think right now we just need to keep our minds on the game, because any night we jump up two spots, we jump down two spots,” Conley said. “We might as well wait until the end of the year and see what happens.”
Arthur returned Friday at New Orleans after back spasms kept him out of nine straight games. Saturday had a little bit of everything in front of a second straight home sellout crowd. There were three technical fouls, one on Bayless for shoving Crawford. A courtside fan in an orange Garnett shirt jawed at Bayless from the get-go.
“(Crawford) threw the ball at me, man. I’m a nice guy but at the same time, you can’t push me,” Bayless said. “That’s not going to fly with me. What kind of bothered me a little bit was the guy in orange. He was talking the whole time. That’s what kind of got me going in the beginning. I said some things. I’ll keep that between me and him. It’s all good.”