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Bench power – an elixir for victory

 

The Grizzlies have grown. They are no longer a young team filled with inexperienced hard-working players. And other teams have taken notice.

The Grizzlies have grown. They are no longer a young team filled with inexperienced hard-working players. And other teams have taken notice.

 
 Gilbert Arenas comes up with a steal against Richard Jefferson of Golden State. (Photos by Warren roseborough)

 
 Dante Cunningham of the Grizzlies applies tenacious defense, helping to stop Richard Jefferson’s progress.

“They’re a veteran basketball team that turned up the volume and turned up the heat,” said Warriors head coach Mark Jackson.

On Tuesday night (April 3) at the FedExForum, Grizz head coach Lionel Hollins looked to players who could pull up and pull out when it mattered most. He went to his reserves and they collectively scored 52 points, securing a 98-94 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Bench power and deepened depth has been the answer in the last two games and was a factor in the Grizzlies clawing back from a deficit for the win.

At halftime, both teams went to their locker rooms with the score tied at 50. The crowd, 14,301, was growing weary. Why couldn’t Memphis get ahead of the curve, gain a substantial lead and top the Warriors.

“We have to beat this team,” one fan said as he walked to the concession stand.

And that’s just what the Grizzlies did to finish the game.

The third quarter was a back-and-forth tussle, with Golden State ahead. At the start of the fourth quarter, Hollins reached for answer.

“We were really struggling in the first three quarters, especially the third quarter,” Hollins said. “I thought our defense was good in the first quarter. We just couldn’t score and then the second quarter we actually scored but didn’t do much defensively. Then in the fourth we finally found a group. I had Tony (Allen), O.J. (Mayo), and Gilbert (Arenas) playing together along with Marc (Gasol) and Dante (Cunningham). They just finished it up and brought it home.”

Mayo led six Grizzlies in double figures with 19 points, his third consecutive game to lead the team in scoring while coming off the bench. Cunningham returned after experiencing a left ankle sprain in the March 30 game against Houston and finished tying his season-high 13 points and five rebounds. Gasol finished with 12 points.

“I think it was a good night for a few of us who came back from last night,” said Mike Conley who finished with 18 points. “DC (Cunningham) did a great job coming off of the bench tonight on his game back after his ankle (injury). He did a good job of coming back and being aggressive. We picked up where we left off.”

With the Golden State win, Memphis extended its winning streak to three games after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night (April 2).

The Warriors are a different team than the Grizzlies faced on March 7 at ORACLE Arena. There is no more Monta Ellis. He was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks. Seth Curry was out with a mild right ankle sprain. Richard Jefferson was picked up from the San Antonio Spurs. And center Andrew Bogut has a fractured left ankle.

Still, the Warriors were up for the challenge. Memphis could not gain an offensive rhythm for three quarters and the Warriors took advantage. But after Golden State took a 12-point lead (86-74) with 10:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, Memphis scored 13 consecutive points to take a one-point lead.

Golden State’s David Lee scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 25th double-double of the season.

“They’re a good team,” Lee said of the Grizzlies. “They’re a playoff team. Their depth is their bench tonight and that’s who shot the best percentage and everything for them. At some point in the game, they turned up their defensive pressure, and we didn’t react well to it. We had some turnovers. Give them credit. They hit shots down the stretch.”

NOTE: The Grizzlies lost to the Dallas Mavericks 95-85 at the American Airlines Arena on Wednesday (April 4), with Mayo’s scoring power (17 points) leading the team off the bench.

 

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