Grizzlies 102, 76ers 91
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)
The Memphis Grizzlies aren't ready to take a break right now.
The way they're playing lately, it's hard to blame them for wanting to keep things going when the NBA pauses the regular season for the All-Star break.
''Guys almost don't want to go,'' Conley said. ''They want to stay in Memphis. The first thing Tony (Allen) said was: 'When you having open gym? Who's coming in Saturday? Who's coming in Monday?' Guys are really set on coming in and getting better.''
Memphis built an 18-point lead in the first half, and Conley took over after halftime by shooting 9 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 5 outside the arc.
Zach Randolph had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis, along with a season-high seven assists. Sam Young added 12 points and Rudy Gay had 11 before leaving in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. He did not return.
The winning streak has Memphis in a different mindset than last season when the Grizzlies dropped six of seven entering the All-Star break. Instead, Memphis is talking about a 25-game sprint in hopes of making the playoffs. The victory, coupled with Utah's 102-101 loss to Phoenix, left the Grizzlies a half-game behind the Jazz - and Denver Nuggets - for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
''We've definitely got a different mentality,'' Randolph said. ''We understand we're playing for something. We ain't the same team we was last year. We're trying to play in late April and June, so it's important for us to come back focused and understand what it means.''
''This is one of the most aggressive teams we've played just because the lineups they put in the game are so strong,'' Young said. ''They try to outmuscle you and out-quick you to everything. Those guys just outhustled us.''
The key to the game was in the first quarter. Memphis jumped out for a 26-10 lead when the period was over, the 10 points the lowest output in a quarter for the Sixers all season. Philly was 5 of 17 from the floor in the period. Gay already had 10 points, matching the Sixers' output.
''They just rocked us in the first quarter and got us on our heels,'' Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. ''They did anything they wanted to.''
Philadelphia, which averages the second-lowest amount of turnovers per game at 14, had eight in the first quarter alone, and ended the night with 17.
''I thought in the first quarter our defense was unbelievable,'' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ''We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of focus and a lot of commitment to what we do.
''We just knocked them back on their heels. I thought that was really the game.''
While the Sixers were fumbling the ball, Memphis was holding onto it, not committing a turnover in the first or third periods, and ending the night with seven.
But after building the early lead, Memphis appeared to become lackadaisical, letting the Sixers make a dent in the advantage. Philadelphia did a better job of holding onto the ball, and was more accurate with its shooting. Memphis still led 55-44 at the break.
The offensive punch for the Sixers came from the bench as Young had 14 and Williams added 10. Gay and Randolph had 11 apiece for Memphis.
But Gay went down with 5:29 left before halftime with a left shoulder injury. He was hurt on a foul by Evan Turner, shot the two free throws one-handed, unable to raise his left arm, then left the game.
Philadelphia rallied to open the second half with a 16-9 run to pull within 64-60 on Spencer Hawes' follow dunk. Six straight points by Williams pulled Philly within 71-70.
Memphis never relinquished the lead, despite the number of times Philadelphia got close, and held a 77-75 lead heading into the fourth.
''Then we made three bad plays,'' Collins said of the opening of the fourth quarter. ''That's what happens when you're fighting uphill. We get it to two, and then they get on a run.''
That helped the Grizzlies open the quarter with eight straight points to create a buffer. Conley's scoring moved the lead to as many as 14, when he connected on a 3-pointer with 4:26 remaining for a 95-81 lead. Another 3-pointer by Conley about 2 minutes later, stretched the lead to 17 and the Grizzlies cruised from there.
Notes: Memphis G O.J. Mayo (three points) returned Tuesday night from a 10-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He made his first appearance with just less than a minute left in the first half to a loud ovation. ... Young played high school ball in Memphis before attending Georgia Tech. ... Randolph's previous season high for assists was five against New Jersey on Dec. 21.