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VOL. 130 | NO. 8 | Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Overtimes, Trade Dominate Grizz Weekend

By Don Wade

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The Memphis Grizzlies have played a lot of big games and made a lot of moments in recent years at FedExForum. Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which required two overtimes and included Tony Allen, aka The Grindfather, hugging an inflatable birthday cake as fans serenaded him, was one of the wilder and stranger ones.

The Grizzlies’ Tony Allen (No. 9) and Mike Conley (No. 11) pressured Suns guard Isaiah Thomas into a turnover during the Grizzlies’ 122-110 double-overtime victory Sunday at FedExForum.

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

First things first: Despite blowing a 16-point second-half lead, the Grizzlies ultimately won the game 122-110 as center Marc Gasol awakened in the second overtime period, scoring the first seven points as the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 14-2 to create that deceiving final score.

“He put us on his back,” shooting guard Courtney Lee said of Gasol’s late surge.

Power forward Zach Randolph, in just his second game after missing nine straight with a sore right knee, scored a season-high 27 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.

“Just doing whatever I gotta do,” Randolph said.

And all of this was against the backdrop of what felt like the longest-running yet-to-be-made-official trade in the history of the NBA. Since last Friday, everyone in the free world knew that the Boston Celtics were sending forward Jeff Green to the Grizzlies and the Grizzlies were shipping veteran forward Tayshaun Prince and his expiring $7.7 million contract to Boston. Over time, the deal filled in with a third team, the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now – and the trade became official Monday morning, Jan. 12 – Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter is headed back to the Pelicans (from where the Grizzlies originally acquired him), rookie guard Russ Smith is coming from New Orleans to Memphis, and the Grizzlies are sending Boston a protected future first-round draft pick and New Orleans a future second-round draft pick. The Pelicans also sent guard Austin Rivers to the Celtics.

Much debate about the merits of all this is already underway and will continue for months, if not years. But in the immediacy of the NBA schedule, there was a game to play on Sunday. Prince was nowhere to be seen (he and Pondexter were put on the inactive list), but Quincy was seen watching the action from a FedExForum suite with general manager Chris Wallace and vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger.

Down on the court, the Grizzlies were fighting a spunky Suns team and some, well, odd officiating. Not to mention dealing with the emotions of the last few days.

“Our response was very good considering everything going on,” said point guard Mike Conley, who finished with 25 points and went 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

The victory pushed the Grizzlies to 26-11 and prevented a third straight loss.

“That’s huge,” Conley said. “You’re gonna have losing streaks. You just gotta limit the amount of losses that build up on you.”

Mission accomplished. Gasol would score just 12 points against the Suns and was anything but chatty post-game. But he was good when it mattered most. So what changed for Gasol in the second overtime?

“It started going in,” Gasol said of his shot.

“Early on he wasn’t as aggressive,” Conley said. “Finally it clicked and he started calling his own number.”

In a sense, the Grizzlies just changed horses at that point after riding Randolph most of the game.

“Zach was terrific and Marc was able to take over and get some work done,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “Marc’s help came late, but was right on time – when we needed him.”

The Suns (22-18) had rallied from a 16-point deficit at the 7:22 mark in the third quarter to send the game into overtime at 101-101.

Tied 108-108 with 16.2 seconds left in the first overtime, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe shot an off-balance jumper just before the buzzer. Bledsoe was matched up one-on-one with Allen.

“I was able to alter his shot and he missed,” Allen said. “I live for that moment.”

Allen also made a huge play in that overtime with the Grizzlies down 108-106. Allen and Conley pressured Isaiah Thomas into a turnover that led to two free throws from Lee to tie the score.

“I thought that was the play of the game, to be honest with you,” Allen said.

The Suns had three players foul out: center Alex Len (14 points and 13 rebounds), Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker. “I just think we ran out of gas in the second overtime,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Given that the Grizzlies led by 14 early in the fourth quarter, there probably shouldn’t have been an overtime. But the final result mattered far more than the zigzag route to get there, especially given the trade saga of the last few days.

“It was a good team win,” Joerger said. “Our guys played with a lot of emotion. They played with their hearts.”

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