MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Quincy Pondexter had nothing to show in his first opportunity to start for the injured Tony Allen.
His second chance resulted in the best scoring night of his career.
Pondexter recorded a career-best 17 points and provided an early burst as the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak with an 85-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
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“It’s seizing the opportunity,” said Pondexter, in his second season out of Washington. “I’ve been blessed enough to be given this position with Tony being out.”
Pondexter went scoreless when Lionel Hollins gave him his first start against San Antonio on Monday night — a performance he described as “a nothing game for me.” He was happy to rebound two nights later.
“Coach believed in me enough to do it,” Pondexter said. “He could have given it to a lot of other players. For some reason, he believed in me, and I can’t let him down.”
Rudy Gay had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead Memphis. Marc Gasol and Dante Cunningham scored 12 apiece, and O. J. Mayo finished with 10 for Memphis despite connecting on only three of 11 shots as the Grizzlies shot just 37 percent overall.
J.J. Barea led the Timberwolves with 17 points and six assists, while Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley had 13 points each. Williams also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Nikola Pekovic had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Minnesota’s starting backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour were a combined 2 of 14 from the field as the Timberwolves shot 39 percent. They played their second game without leading scorer Kevin Love, who completed his league-ordered two-game suspension for stepping on Houston’s Luis Scola.
“We shot very poorly,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “I didn’t think we played the way we needed to play offensively against them at all.”
A lack of energy was a common theme out of the Timberwolves’ locker room. Minnesota was on the second night of a back-to-back after an 86-84 home win over Sacramento on Tuesday.
“We didn’t come out with energy,” Barea said. “That put us in a deep hole. With teams like this, you can’t fall behind.”
Memphis extended its lead in the final minutes of the first half to carry a 44-34 advantage into the break. Gay and Pondexter had 11 points apiece to lead Memphis.
The Timberwolves had no players in double figures — Williams led Minnesota with nine — and were stymied by shooting 29 percent. The shooting percentage kept Memphis from paying the price for 10 turnovers.
Ridnour missed all seven of his shots in the half, while Rubio was 1 for 5 with no assists. Rubio, who entered averaging 9.1 assists, ended the night with only one.
“I couldn’t find a rhythm,” he said. “I did a lot of things badly.”
Meanwhile, Memphis was getting to the basket as 30 of its 44 first-half points came in the paint despite Gasol playing only nine minutes after collecting three fouls.
“We got a lot of defensive stops that allowed us to get out in transition a little bit,” said Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who recorded seven assists, but was 1 of 8 from the field.
“Our guys did a good job of moving the ball,” he added. “When Marc goes out, and we don’t have an inside presence, moving the ball around the perimeter and attacking the basket really helps us.”
Memphis was able to build its halftime lead by closing the second quarter on an 8-2 spurt as the Timberwolves didn’t record a field goal over the final 4:40 of the half.
Memphis extended the lead by scoring the first six points of the second half, but Pekovic started scoring inside and the Grizzlies began misfiring. Back-to-back baskets by Wesley Johnson pulled Minnesota within 56-50 with 4 minutes left in the third.
The Grizzlies would later answer with eight unanswered points, and carry a 66-54 lead into the fourth. They got their largest lead of the game by scoring the first two baskets of the fourth for a 71-54 lead.
“We just made it stand up,” Hollins said. “We had a 10-point lead (in the fourth quarter) and at the end, we gave up some 3s and some fouls.”
NOTES: Love, as he did in Tuesday night’s win over Sacramento, spent his time away from the arena on Twitter providing occasional color commentary. … Even with the loss, the Wolves remained only one of four Western Conference teams with a winning road record. … Minnesota is 6-5 on road. … Allen missed his third straight game for Memphis with a sore left hip and knee. … Minnesota’s 34 first-half points were a season low for a half. … Grizzlies F Marreese Speights finished the night with 15 rebounds, matching his career high. … It was Memphis’ sixth straight win in the series.