Grizzlies 108, Hornets 99
The New Orleans Hornets' reserves did everything they could to overcome a 17-point deficit.
Though they got close, the Memphis Grizzlies' lead was just too much to erase.
Rudy Gay scored 23 points, Marc Gasol added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Memphis beat New Orleans 108-99 Saturday night.
Memphis needed a flurry down the stretch to put the game away after holding a comfortable lead in the third period.
''We opened up a 17-point lead, and then they changed lineups and went a bit smaller,'' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ''Next thing you know, it's a two-point game.
''Fortunately for us, we made some big plays.''
Mike Conley had 17 points and seven assists, while Marreese Speights and Tony Allen finished with 12 points apiece.
Jarrett Jack led New Orleans with 23 points, while Jason Smith had 15, including 10 in the fourth quarter as the Hornets chipped away at the lead. Greivis Vasquez scored 14 points and handed out six assists. Marco Belinelli contributed 10 points.
''I think we're coming out in the third and fourth quarters just lackadaisical,'' said Smith, who also grabbed 10 rebounds. ''.You can't come out there just acting cool and thinking that we're going to win the game.
''I think we just dug ourselves a hole too deep that we couldn't get out.''
Memphis built its advantage against the New Orleans starters. But the Hornets bench players used a much more aggressive style on both ends of the floor to threaten the Grizzlies' lead.
''They were very aggressive,'' Conley said. ''I think they played more free. They kind of broke off the system that they were playing and got into a lot of pick-and-rolls early in the shot clock. That kind of threw us off balance a little bit. That's how they got back in the game.''
New Orleans has lost three straight and nine of its last 10.
The Memphis lead was threatened because the Hornets' reserves turned up the offense. The second-teamers were also more active on defense as the Grizzlies began running too much isolation on their end of the floor.
That led to a rally bridging the third and the fourth periods that brought New Orleans within a basket with 7:42 left to play. The Hornets trailed 95-93 with 5:07 left after Jack scored.
''It wasn't pretty,'' Gasol said, adding: ''We weren't disciplined enough to get them out of what they were trying to do. We knew what they were trying to do, but we could have done it better.''
New Orleans could not overtake Memphis as Gay had seven points over a 2-minute span. A 3-pointer with 2:15 left extended the Memphis lead back to double digits.
''That's what we've got to do,'' Conley said of thwarting the rally. ''That's what we got better at last season. Teams make runs in the third and fourth quarter, and you've got to be able to withstand those runs.
''The last three minutes is when the plays really matter the most, especially defensively. We got some big defensive rebounds and stops. On the offensive plays, Rudy made some big plays.''
The teams were close through the midway point of the second period. The Hornets put together an early rally in the quarter for a nine-point lead.
Memphis answered with a 15-2 run to retake the lead, and when Gay connected on a 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining in the half, it was the game's first double-digit margin at 55-45.
Memphis outscored the Hornets 37-23 in the second as the Grizzlies took a 57-47 advantage into the break. Gasol had 15 points, while Gay added 12.
The Grizzlies were 14 of 22 in the second period.
Vasquez scored on a layup as the horn sounded at the end of the third, but that only cut the Memphis advantage to 86-75 entering the final frame.
However, the Hornets weren't finished with the scoring push with their reserves still in the game. An early 7-0 run in the fourth and the Memphis lead was 86-82.
Smith's 12-footer forced a timeout from Hollins as the Hornets cut the lead to 93-91.
''Sometimes effort doesn't overcome talent,'' Jack said.
NOTES: The game meant the return to Memphis of Vasquez, traded to the Hornets on Christmas Eve for G/F Quincy Pondexter. Another former Memphis G, Xavier Henry, obtained by the Hornets in a three-team trade with Memphis was inactive. . Hornets F Chris Kaman was coming off a 0-for-10 shooting night against Minnesota on Friday night. He finished with seven points, hitting 3 of 6 shots. .The Grizzlies became only the second team this season to surpass the 100-point mark against the Hornets. The Philadelphia 76ers were the others on Jan. 4. .Memphis C Hamed Haddadi from Iran said in the locker room before the game that he is still waiting on the paperwork to clear for his return to play.