Five games in nine days during the longest road trip of the season warranted a day off for the Grizzlies on Thursday, the day before they took the court at the FedExForum to tangle with the Denver Nuggets.
By halftime it was clear the Grizzlies needed a wakeup call. Looking tired, sluggish and bearing faint resemblance to a team battling for a playoff spot, Memphis trailed 47-43 at the break before awakening in the third quarter and holding on for a 100-92 victory.
Memphis started off strong, grabbing a lead that stood at 24-18 at the end of the first quarter. The Grizz crowd of 17,011 responded accordingly but fell noticeably quiet as the Nuggets, who are mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt, played inspired basketball. After Kenneth – the "Manimal" – Faried's layup tied the game at 28-28, the Nuggets unleashed a run that netted a 47-43 halftime advantage.
"Each game is a grind," said Grizz forward Zach Randolph. "Each game counts. ... We're playing for something."
Memphis came into the game in the eighth playoff spot, a hair ahead of the Phoenix Suns and slightly behind Dallas' Mavericks. The Suns beat Portland and Dallas defeated the Lakers later Friday evening.
"They are scrapping," said Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw. "They want to solidify a spot in the playoffs. Obviously, we're just trying to play hard and do what we can to get the win."
Memphis center Marc Gasol, who led all scorers with 24 points, said the Grizzlies "needed to be home" after the long road trip.
"We needed to be in our beds and play in front of our fans. They do a very good job of supporting us and cheering for us. We need that," said Gasol.
The win over the Nuggets was the Grizzlies 11th straight victory on their home court, tying the franchise's second-longest streak.
All five Grizzlies starters reached double figures. Starting point guard Mike Conley had 21 points, including 10 points in the pivotal third quarter. Randolph finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, recording his 44th double-double of the season.
The Nuggets shot 29-of-80 from the field and committed 20 turnovers, which turned into 17 Grizz points. Denver's bench outscored Memphis' bench by 17 (30-13). Randy Foye led the Nuggets with 21 points, coupling his scoring with nine rebounds. Faried hustled up 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Grizzlies have just three more home games left in the regular season (April 9th vs. Miami, April 11th vs. Philadelphia and April 16th vs. Dallas).