Grizzlies thump Pelicans to soothe their rough-patch pain

Four-game sprint to the end of the regular season begins against Utah on the road Friday night.

Kelley D. Evans | 4/9/2015, 1:54 p.m.
Four-game sprint to the end of the regular season begins against Utah on the road Friday night.
Zach Randolph has that happy feeling as he trots down the court after scoring and putting the Grizzlies up by 30 points. Photo by Warren Roseborough

The opening tip went to Marc Gasol and looking back at the Memphis Grizzlies’ 110-74 route of the New Orleans Pelicans it could have been read as a sign of things to come.

The 36-point margin of victory was Memphis’ second largest of the season, which now has come down to a four-game sprint to the finish. Wednesday night’s game against the Pelicans at FedExForum was the last the Grizzlies will play against their rivals in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference.

The much-needed win for Memphis was a grit-and-grind affair. The Grizzlies made stops, knocked down shots and stayed focused for the entire 48 minutes. Zach Randolph pounded his strong-forward body into Pelican’s forward Anthony Davis, helping Memphis take control of the paint, where they outscored the New Orleans 58 to 36. He finished with 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, his 36th double-double of the season.

“A guy like that you have to come in ready to play,” Randolph said of Davis. “Be aggressive and try to do the best I can. Everybody contributed tonight. Marc had a good game. It’s good to see Courtney (Lee) knock shots in; it was a good win. It’s all about us playing well, especially going into the playoffs.”

Memphis followers know that the key to Grizz basketball is to play through its big men.

“When Zbo (Zach Randolph) puts his mean face on and plays like that we’re tough to beat,” Grizz guard Mike Conley said. “We just have to get him the ball and we did that tonight. One of our goals is to be aggressive and be assertive. It’s games like this that we’ve been looking for.”

Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said Randolph and Marc Gasol set the tone.

“We were playing the number one shot blocking team and they took it right to the rim early and often,” Joerger said. “They put their bodies on guys. We were playing a team that had a very emotional win (against Golden State) last night at home (and) got them on the second night of a back-to-back.”

With the win, Memphis finished with a 9-7 record in the Southwest Division. Every active Grizz player scored. Jeff Green, still in the starting lineup with Tony Allen nursing a hamstring injury, matched Randolph’s 15 points, as did Gasol.

Beno Udrih led the second unit with 14 points, followed by Vince Carter’s 10. Carter, Udrih and Kosta Koufos combined for 33 points.

“It was just a tough game for us,” said Pelicans head coach Monty Williams. “We had an emotional game last night. I thought we’d have some let down but not this much.”

Former Grizz forward Quincy Pondexter finished with 12 points while former University of Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans pitched in 10. Davis, whose 12 points were well below his 24 points-per-game average, was in no mood for excuses.

“Tough game last night against the best team (the Warriors) in the league. We put a lot into that game but that would be a cop out to say that’s why we played like we did tonight,” said Davis. “They (the Grizzlies) have great chemistry together. They have great size and they look for them a lot inside.”

The Grizzlies will look to take Wednesday’s intensity on the road, beginning with the Utah Jazz on Friday night, followed by games against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.

Playoffs At-A-Glance

The Grizzlies pulled back into a second-seed tie with the Houston Rockets, who lost to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. The Pelicans are now tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the eighth and final seed in the West.

Clinching the Southwest Division is a challenge within itself for Memphis, with all five teams having a winning record. If the Western Conference Playoffs started today, all of the Southwest Division teams would compete. The last time every team in an NBA division made the playoffs was the 2005-06 season when the entire Central Division advanced.

“I don’t think it’s as well respected as it should be around the country just because you always hear about San Antonio,” said Joerger about the strength of the Southwest Division.