Randolph leads Grizzlies to final playoff spot
PHOENIX — Zach Randolph scored 32 points and the Memphis Grizzlies clinched the final playoff berth in the Western Conference with a 97-91 victory over Phoenix on Monday night that eliminated the Suns from postseason contention.
The Grizzlies scored the last six points of an intense fourth quarter.
Mike Conley sank a 3-pointer to put Memphis ahead for good 93-91 with 1:08 to play. Goran Dragic threw the ball away on the Suns’ next possession and Randolph scored inside to make it 95-91 with 47.1 seconds left.
Mike Miller added 21 points, Marc Gasol 17 and Conley 13 for the Grizzlies, in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Markieff Morris had 21 points, and Channing Frye and Dragic 14 apiece for Phoenix.
Memphis swept the season series from the Suns 4-0.
The Grizzlies can move ahead of Dallas for the No. 7 spot with a victory at home over the Mavericks in their regular-season finale Wednesday night.
The Suns lost their third straight to come up just short of the playoffs in a remarkable turnaround season under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek, winning 22 more games than a year ago, with one to play, after going 25-57 in 2013.
Phoenix is only the fifth team in NBA history to win 47 games and not make the playoffs.
There were 15 lead changes in the fourth quarter and neither team led by more than three until Memphis’ final spurt.
The last of Miller’s five 3-pointers — in six attempts — put the Grizzlies 86-85 with 3:10 to go. Miles Plumlee made a 16-footer and Phoenix led 87-86, then Gasol scored on a driving layup and Memphis was on top 88-87 with 2:23 left.
Bledsoe’s 15-footer gave the lead back to Phoenix, then Conley sank a 20-footer, a hint of what was about to come, to make it 90-89 Memphis. Phoenix’s final lead was 91-90 on Plumlee’s tip-in with 1:27 to go.
Up until the final two minutes, the first half was played entirely at Memphis’ preferred slow pace.
An early 15-4 run put the Grizzlies up 22-11 and it was 24-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Memphis took its biggest lead of the half, 44-31, when Randolph converted a three-point play with 2:54 to play in the second quarter. But the Grizzlies didn’t score again in the half.
Bledsoe ended the Suns’ string of eight straight missed 3-pointers and Phoenix scored the final nine points of the half to cut it to 46-42 at the beak. It could have been closer. Bledsoe missed a free throw what could have been a 3-point play and, after a Memphis turnover, P.J. Tucker took an off-balance shot before the halftime buzzer when Bledsoe was wide open for a layup.
The Suns’ run continued in the third quarter, when Phoenix outscored Memphis 11-4 to start the period and took a 53-50 lead on Channing Frye’s 16-foooter. Nobody led by more than six points the rest of the quarter, with Tony Allen going coast-to-coast in the final seconds for a layup that tied it at 67 entering the fourth.