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Memphis Grizzlies bear down against Denver Nuggets

By Don Wade, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 9, 2016 at 1:26 AM
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A few weeks ago, the ground-and-pound Memphis Grizzlies started to move more toward the NBA trend of space and pace. But Friday night, the Grizzlies were forced to play throwback-style.

When Memphis coach Dave Joerger began emphasizing "small ball," the move included sending power forward Zach Randolph and defensive specialist Tony Allen to the bench.

But guards Mike Conley and Courtney Lee sat out with injuries Friday. And so with Allen starting -- and creating chaos -- and Randolph scoring a team-high 24 points off the bench, the Grizzlies held off the Denver Nuggets for a 91-84 victory at FedExForum.

"I mean, he's an alpha -- 'I want the ball, I'm going to score it, bring it over here,'" Joerger said of Randolph.

"Z-Bo's always a bucket waiting to happen," said Allen, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

The Nuggets led as late as 5:54 remaining in the fourth quarter as forward Danilo Gallinari (29 points, eight rebounds) made two free throws for a 76-74 lead. But the Grizzlies (20-18) closed the game with a 17-8 run.

"They killed us in the fourth quarter," said Denver forward Darrell Arthur (12 points, nine rebounds)

The Nuggets (13-24) built an overwhelming rebounding advantage at 59-43 with 19 offensive boards. Eight different Nuggets had at least five rebounds but none as many as 10. And despite the rebounding advantage, the Grizzlies and Randolph were more physical.

"You know they'll hold you, punch you, whatever it is, and you gotta respect that about them," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "Playing against Zach Randolph, that's a great learning experience -- big, strong ... we gotta get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

The second quarter was anything but comfortable as Memphis held Denver to seven points on 3-of-21 shooting from the field (14.3 percent). The Nuggets made six of their 17 turnovers in the second quarter and that flipped a one-point Denver lead after the first quarter to a 49-37 Grizzlies lead at halftime.

"I loved the fact that we were down by 12 at halftime and our energy, our effort, our focus to start the third quarter was great," Malone said.

In fact, the Nuggets erased a 12-point halftime deficit and led by four points late in the third quarter before Memphis closed with a 5-0 spurt to carry a 67-66 lead into the fourth.

But Denver's only lead of the fourth quarter lasted just 32 seconds, or until Randolph's putback tied the score at 76 with 5:22 to play.

The Nuggets hung in there and were down 82-78 with 2:30 left when Randolph rejected a layup attempt by center Jusuf Nurkic (six points, six rebounds). It was Randolph's third block of the night.

"Got that old grit and grind feeling back," Randolph said.

Also helping the Grizzlies was forward Jeff Green, who had 16 points and nine rebounds, and forward Matt Barnes, who finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol had 12 points with five steals and guard Mario Chalmers played 40 minutes and contributed 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and four turnovers.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Chalmers also mixed things up with 7-foot, 280-pound Nurkic after Randolph's block and Chalmers and Nurkic each got a technical.

"Mario, he's not gonna back down," Randolph said. "He fits in well."

Denver shot 36.8 percent from the floor and hit 4 of 19 from 3-point range. Memphis shot 36.6 from the field and made 8 of 18 from long distance.

Guard Gary Harris had 11 points and five rebounds for Denver. Point guard Jameer Nelson didn't score but had nine assists.

"Gritty win," Allen said. "Must-needed win. That team's young, athletic, and they played with a lot of heart."

NOTES: Memphis G Mike Conley sat out his second straight second game on Friday with a sore left Achilles, and G Courtney Lee, who injured his left hip in the second half of Wednesday's 112-94 loss at Oklahoma City, also was not available. ... With those injuries in mind, the Grizzlies released veteran big man Ryan Hollins and signed G Elliot Williams to a 10-day contract. Williams spent part of his college career playing for the University of Memphis. ... Denver was without F Kenneth Faried, who was to attend the birth of his child, and G Emmanuel Mudiay (right ankle sprain). ... Memphis G Jordan Adams, who has appeared in just two games this season, is scheduled for right knee surgery next Tuesday. ... Before Friday's action, Denver G Will Barton had five games with at least 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. That's the most among NBA reserves.

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