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VOL. 128 | NO. 235 | Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Grindhouse Now House of Horrors for Grizzlies

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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The Grizzlies just started a six-game homestand with a loss – their fourth in a row at FedExForum.

Following a franchise-best 32-9 finish at home last season, the Grizzlies are struggling in FedExForum with a 3-5 record so far. The absence of Zach Randolph didn’t help Saturday in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Seems The Grindhouse has turned into a fun house for visiting teams this season as they have gone 5-3 against the Grizzlies.

Just as odd, the Grizzlies are 5-3 on the road and playing with more energy when they have to take a bus to the arena instead of when driving their own cars from their own homes, where they slept in their own beds. The most puzzling part to Memphis coach Dave Joerger? The way the Grizzlies start slow at home, almost like they’re surprised the game has begun.

“I have no idea to be honest. I don’t know why we ease into games,” Joerger said.

“Maybe we’re too lax,” guard Tony Allen offered. “Maybe we try to rely on our crowd. And on the road, we feel like we’re the underdog.”

Last season, Memphis compiled a franchise-best 32-9 (.780) home record. Memphis is the only Western Conference team with a better road record (5-3) than home record (3-5). When it was suggested the Grizzlies might try staying in a hotel before Tuesday’s night game here against the Phoenix Suns, point guard Mike Conley agreed.

“I wish we could,” he said. “Get away a little bit, like we’re on a road game.”

The 97-88 loss to the struggling Brooklyn Nets last Saturday at FedExForum marked the first time since power forward Zach Randolph joined the team for the 2009-2010 season that Randolph and center Marc Gasol missed a regular season game at the same time. Gasol is out for several weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Randolph missed Saturday’s game because of an ingrown toenail.

So by no means are the losses at home only about being at home, though injuries don’t really work as an acceptable reason, either. The Nets played without Paul Pierce and Deron Williams, among others, and as guard Joe Johnson said after hanging 26 points on the Grizz: “Part of the NBA, injuries happen. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

If there was anything positive coming out of the loss to the Nets, it was that swingman Quincy Pondexter got off the bench – Joerger did not play him in the previous two games – and scored a career-high 22 points.

But even that had its drama, as Pondexter said after the game that no one had explained why he didn’t play and “I did not understand.” He added, for emphasis it seemed, that he had not expected to play against the Nets.

Meantime, as long as Gasol is out, life figures to be more difficult for Conley. He has handed out 29 assists over the last three games, but also has found himself having to pick his spots to try and score while drawing extra attention from the defense.

“With Marc out there, there was another point guard,” Conley said. “Now I’m by myself. There were some funky lineups (against the Nets), but if a guy’s wide open I’m not gonna take a shot over two people.”

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