Grizzlies keep playoff fight alive by beating Heat
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies had to have a win on Wednesday and they got one against the Miami Heat, 107-102. Fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with Phoenix, who beat New Orleans, Memphis had to win its 12th straight at home to stay a game back. In front of a sellout crowd at FedExForum, it was also a quality win that could be the push the Grizzlies (46-32) needed to sneak in the playoffs’ back door. Here are three observations from the game.
1. The 3-ball hurt the Grizzlies, but they stayed alive with a complete game.
Miami hit 15 3-pointers. Out of 25 attempts (60 percent). Nine of those came in the first half, yet Memphis was still down only four.
That thanks to an all-around game that started with Zach Randolph. Randolph hit his first nine, all in the first half, and scored 19 points. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting.
Miami (53-25) played without Dwyane Wade, still day-to-day with a bum hamstring. It also played without Chris Anderson, Udonis Haslem and Greg Oden. Memphis played without Tayshaun Prince and his sprained ankle.
But the Heat didn’t miss a beat from deep, and the Grizzlies didn’t miss a beat from a small rotation.
Tony Allen was the lone player off the bench with double-digit minutes. The starters scored 94 points, 26 from Mike Conley, 20 and 14 boards from Marc Gasol and 18 from Courtney Lee. The Grizzlies shot 55 percent and outscored Miami 60-30 in the paint.
"We were very focused and played very hard," said Memphis coach Dave Joerger. "We got what we were looking for … We scored a ton of points in the paint … Courtney Lee being aggressive makes us a lot more difficult to guard … I thought our bigs did a good job of defending out on the perimeter."
Memphis didn’t own a lead in the second quarter, but a turnover tied it on Lee’s circus 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer. Gasol hit a hook for a 93-91 lead that put Memphis ahead for good. Then a steal from Nick Calathes for his reverse layup. Gasol stripped Bosh and Conley hit a 3 for a 100-93 lead. Another steal, this one from Randolph to Calathes to Conley for 3. Defense created offense.
2. Randolph and Gasol bounced back from bad night.
Slow down Z-Bo. It’s not like all that. Randolph hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter. That’s how well his night went. He pushed his luck and shot another one later. One was his allotment.
Still, that stat line, a line coming off an ugly loss at San Antonio where he scored eight points and had six rebounds.
"Just trying to be aggressive," said Randolph. "I hit shots and guys kept coming to me and being aggressive. I pick and choose my spots. I got off to a good start. Everybody else fought."
Gasol didn’t sparkle at San Antonio, either — six points and six rebounds. The two combined for 45 points and 25 rebounds against a depleted Miami interior.
But Joerger didn’t open his postgame with the bigs.
"I would like to start off by saying, ‘Smile, Tony Allen is back!’ That was fantastic," he said.
Allen has struggled, seeing his minutes limited over the last few games. Coming off the bench, he played more than 20 minutes in only one of the Grizzlies last six games. Wednesday he played 24 minutes and though the box score won’t show it, his presence was key.
Memphis’ defensive leader scored six points, but had three steals and led a number of the Grizzlies’ 10 steals.
LeBron James scored 37 points. Only 16 of those came with Allen on him. He took chances and won most of the gambles. He got deflections and wreaked havoc.
Allen wasn’t so hyped about the comment. While admitting his struggles, he said he thought he was back when he returned from a 21-game departure with a sprained wrist. But he also said the stomach illness that sat him out against Minnesota set him back.
"I don’t know what that means. I ain’t getting into that," said Allen. "I ain’t worried about that. I just want to play basketball, obviously. I wish he wouldn’t have said that. This ain’t even about me. It’s about the Grizzlies."
He did take one of those awkward 3-pointers that clanked off the side of the backboard. Sometime Tony giveth and taketh away. Sometimes he taketh, then taketh away. But that’s a trade Memphis will take — and needs.
Tony sounded confused, but Memphis looked in sync. The Grizzlies had 14 turnovers, but scored 29 points off 15 turnovers.
Memphis had dropped four of its last six, including road losses to prime players Golden State, Portland and San Antonio. The two wins came against flailing Denver, but it finally got a big one.
"We needed to have a heck of a game. We had a heck of a game," said Joerger.
3. LeBron on the Grizz.
Wade has missed eight straight games. Four others were out Wednesday. LeBron is playing a lot of minutes, 40-plus in three of his last four, four games in six days with one win.
Miami is in the playoffs but in a battle for the East’s top seed.
Are the minutes wearing on James?
"I played pretty well, besides the turnovers," said James. "It is what it is. I don’t make any excuses. It’s been tough on all of us."
James scored a game-high 37 points, the fourth time in six games with 32 or more. He had six rebounds and five assists but also a game-high five turnovers. It was also the fifth time in six trips to Memphis the Heat lost.
"I felt like they were very desperate and they played very, very good basketball," said James, "what they’re supposed to do on their home floor."
Randolph and Gasol could get a chance at redemption against the Spurs in round one, but have to make it there first. Wednesday was a necessary step. The next four steps are even bigger. Two should-wins against Philadelphia and at Los Angeles and two must-wins at Phoenix and against Dallas to close the regular season with a potential playoff berth on the line each night.