Grizzlies Grit-n-Grind Way to Needed Win

By Don Wade

It took until Tuesday, Feb. 18, but with the Grizzlies’ 98-93 victory over New York, they raised their record at FedExForum (15-14) above .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 after a home loss to Toronto on Nov. 13.

Tayshaun Prince played an integral role in the Grizzlies’ win over the Knicks, including strong defense against Carmelo Anthony.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

“First game off the break, we get a gritty win,” said point guard Mike Conley, who scored 22 points – 10 in the fourth quarter – in his return after missing seven games with an ankle injury.

“The most important thing is we let a lot of games slip away earlier in our building when we had leads,” said forward Tayshaun Prince, who played a tough 39 minutes against the Knicks and had a hand in Carmelo Anthony’s 8-for-22 shooting night (22 points). “We’re still on the outside looking in right now.”

On the outside of the Western Conference playoffs, he means. Even with a 30-23 record.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 18 points in the first half but found themselves down seven with 5:39 to play and still down five at the 2:39 mark, and still down two after a Tim Hardaway Jr. 3-pointer (23 points, 14 in the fourth quarter) gave the Knicks a 93-91 lead with 1:04 to play.

But veteran Mike Miller knocked down his fifth three of the night (season-high 19 points) with 45.9 seconds left for a 94-93 lead that the Grizzlies would not relinquish.

“That’s what we got him for,” Conley said. “He’s going to win us four, five, six games a year.”

Coach Dave Joerger made the bold move with 4:49 left to remove center Marc Gasol and go to a smaller lineup. It paid off.

“They ran Tim Hardaway Jr. with some catch-and-shoots, J.R. Smith would be running one way, Carmelo Anthony was playing the four. That’s a problem,” Joerger said. “We felt like we just weren’t punishing them enough with our size on the offensive end to stay big. That wasn’t fun (taking out Gasol). But Marc is a team guy and he is playing on one leg. He is giving us everything he can and just wants to win.”

The Grizzlies next play at home on Friday, Feb. 21, against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“One of the best teams in the league,” Conley said. “Obviously, we know the history between us. They have a lot of goals in their locker room and we have a lot of goals in our locker room.”