Grizzlies dominate Bobcats inside to aid playoff hopes
MEMPHIS — The Bobcats are in the playoff picture. The Grizzlies want in it. Memphis took a step toward that goal Saturday with a dominating 111-89 win at FedExForum. The Grizzlies used a 31-11 third-quarter run to pull within a half game of idle Dallas and Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
1. Tired Bobcats can’t match Grizz inside
Charlotte has played five games in seven days, including losses at Oklahoma City and Miami. But Memphis is fresh off a three-game road trip and also played Friday night. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford isn’t leaning on that crutch to excuse Memphis’ 60 points in the paint.
"They played last night, too. It was a long week. We didn’t play well," he said. "They are bruising in there. If you’re not ready to fight in the paint, you’re going to be in trouble. They set a tone with (Zach) Randolph and we never really got back into that."
The Memphis power forward scored the first six points of the game and after a 13-0 run gave Charlotte a seven-point lead, Memphis controlled, never trailing after Randolph’s free throws broke a 17-all tie.
Al Jefferson led Charlotte with 17 points and seven rebounds, a good night unless you’re Al Jefferson as of late. He has averaged 31.3 points in March, this the first time he has been held under 20. Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 15 points, while Kemba Walker added 11, five assists and four boards.
"They’re terrific defensively," Clifford said. "They’ve got great size everywhere and guys who have been playing together for a while."
Charlotte (29-34) shot .398 from the field and missed 16 of its 21 three-pointers. It broke a three-game stretch of scoring at least 100, including against Indiana and Miami. Charlotte is 2-18 when scoring less than 90.
Randolph finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Marc Gasol had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Memphis’ production came from the outside, too. Point guard Mike Conley scored a game-high 20 points and tied a season-high with five three-pointers.
Charlotte was giving up only 97.2 points per game, fifth in the league and are only 7-16 when allowing triple digits.
2. Different night, different Grizzly
Grizzlies guard Tony Allen has found a new motor — and he already had a good one. Allen has found a role off the bench after coming back from a sprained wrist. Upon entering at the first quarter’s 3:20 mark, he acknowledged an adoring fan at Club level.
He then scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and had six rebounds, two of those points on a thunderous put-back slam in the second quarter. He tied for a team-high four assists and has shot .500 or better from the field in eight of his nine games back.
"It ain’t really nothing. I ain’t even thinking about it," Allen said. "Whatever I get, I’m giving them 110 percent, running through the wall for the Grizzlies. I don’t got nothing to lose. It is what it is. Live with it."
Jon Leuer made his reappearance, playing more than 17 minutes. Memphis coach Dave Joerger likes Leuer’s versatility and is using the 6-foot-10 forward when the matchup calls for it, saying it also gives the Grizzlies a different look offensively when they’re struggling to score. It was only the third time since Jan. 12 he has played double-digit minutes. His 10 points (five rebounds) were his second-highest since then — he scored 19 in Wednesday’s loss at Brooklyn.
"I have tried to stay as ready as possible this whole season," Leuer said. "I stay focused on working hard every day and whenever my name is called just going out there and being ready."
Memphis’ bench outscored Charlotte 48-32. Anthony Tolliver scored 10 off the bench for the Bobcats. Kosta Koufos had 12 points and 10 boards for Memphis, the majority in the second half for his fourth double-double.
3. If only West Tennessee was in the East
Tennessee is east of the Mighty Mississippi, but the NBA hasn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Memphis has been that good story, working its way up the respect ladder of the snooty Western Conference. If the Grizzlies had the Bobcats’ mark, they’d be nearly 10 games out of the eighth spot. If the Grizzlies were in the East, they would be in third place, behind Indiana and Miami.
But they’re not and the rest of the 20 games on the schedule are big. The last two: at Phoenix and Dallas at home, just how the Western Conference likes to do it.
Memphis has won six straight home games, a season-high.
"I’m pretty sure guys have got it in the back of their head. He probably wants us to stop talking about it and take it one game at a time," Allen said, "which we’re trying to do. But you can’t help but go online and see what Phoenix next three games are and see what the Golden State Warriors next three games … What we’ve got to do is take care of what we can control."