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VOL. 129 | NO. 229 | Monday, November 24, 2014

Grizzlies Playing With Dominating ‘Edge’

By Don Wade

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After Marc Gasol had demoralized the Los Angeles Clippers – which is what 30 points and 12 rebounds from the Grizzlies’ slimmed-down center will do – coach Doc Rivers noted that Gasol “looked great, he’s playing with an edge. Very serious.”

But after the Grizzlies’ 107-91 victory at FedExForum Sunday night, Rivers pointed something else out. He wasn’t surprised by the now 12-2 Grizzlies.

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) battles Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) for a rebound in the first half of Sunday’s win at FedExForum that pushed the Grizz to 12-2.

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

“They all have that edge,” said Rivers, who won an NBA title as coach of the Boston Celtics a few years ago. “You can feel it when you watch them on tape.”

After the Grizzlies blew out the hyped-up Houston Rockets last week, 119-93, they spoke of making a statement to the rest of the NBA. They are perhaps past that now, even with the league’s best record at 12-2.

“We are making a statement to ourselves,” said guard Courtney Lee. “We are proving to ourselves, night in and night out, that we can be a really good team.”

Still, if you want to freeze-frame what it feels like to the rest of the NBA right now, there was that moment when the Clippers were down by 12 points with a little less than three minutes to play in the third quarter. That’s when Gasol did a nice one-man running-of-the-bulls impersonation and stormed toward the rim and dunked. The Clippers didn’t even bother to wave a cape.

“I know Marc Gasol’s got amazing speed,” Rivers said, “but he shouldn’t be able to go from the 3-point line to the goal without anybody touching him.”

Rivers, angry with the “gambling” on defense and the lack of help on the back end, called a timeout. For a moment, the Clippers (7-5) made a little surge to get back within eight at 78-70 when point guard Chris Paul hit a driving layup with 1:47 left in the third quarter. But the Grizzlies went on a 10-2 run and led 88-72 going into the final frame. Los Angeles never again got within single digits.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter and Gasol was almost flawless Sunday, making 13 of 18 shots from the floor. He also blocked two shots.

The Grizzlies extended their regular-season home winning streak to 22 games. After losing by four at Toronto last Wednesday while missing several players that had a stomach virus, they returned home and beat Boston Friday night by 17 points.

And then they dropped a hammer on the Clippers.

“The Clippers are somebody that we know and that we’ve played in the playoffs, and they know us,” Gasol said. “We wanted to come out strong like we do at home.”

By holding the Clippers to under 100 points, the Grizzlies stopped Los Angeles' nine-game road streak of scoring 100 or more – the team's longest stretch since moving to Los Angeles. Forward Blake Griffin struggled through a 5-for-17 shooting night, scoring just 12 points.

Paul led Los Angeles with 22 points, five assists and four steals.

Memphis dominated points in the paint 52-32 and out-rebounded the Clippers 52-32.

“We didn’t rebound well enough tonight,” Paul said. “We’re one of those teams, like a lot of teams in the league, we have to defend so we can get out and play up-tempo.”

Six players finished in double figures for the Grizzlies. Lee scored 13 points, swingman Tony Allen had 12, reserve point guard Beno Udrih had 11 points off the bench, and Quincy Pondexter had 11. Power forward Zach Randolph contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.

But all of those points were mere accessories to Gasol’s work, which was a nice follow-up to Friday night when he tied his career high with 32 points against the Celtics.

“He’s very difficult to guard right now,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.

The knock against Gasol in the past? Too unselfish, rather pass than shoot or make a strong move to the rim. But that’s clearly changing as he has put up three of four career games with at least 30 points in this young season. Gasol’s first step is obviously quicker, and point guard Mike Conley said Gasol has embraced the idea of becoming more of a scorer, the fast start providing evidence that it’s what the Grizzlies need.

“He sees that 12-2 start,” Conley said.

Gasol also can become a free agent this summer, which wasn’t lost on the Clippers.

“I don’t know if he has been on a diet, but he looks great and he is playing great,” Rivers said.

“Contract-year diet,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. “Everybody leans up in their contract year.”

NOTES: Reserve point guard Nick Calathes finished serving his 20-game suspension for a violation of the NBA’s drug policy and was active for the first time Sunday. Calathes was suspended just before the Grizzlies began their first-round playoff series last season with Oklahoma City. Calathes played eight minutes Sunday against the Clippers and missed the one shot he took. “I think it’s best to bring him back slow,” Joerger said before the game, noting how well veteran Beno Udrih has played. … The 12-2 start ties the best 14-game record in franchise history. … Since the 2008-09 season – including regular season and playoffs – the Grizzlies lead the series with the Clippers 18-17.

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