Portland squandered a 20-point, first-half lead, and lost 96-93 to the Grizzlies on Friday night.
The loss, coupled with Minnesota’s 106-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, left the Timberwolves in the Western Conference’s fourth spot, and dropped Portland into a tie with the idle Los Angeles Lakers for fifth. Portland and the Lakers play Sunday.
“It damaged our chances for home-court advantage,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It definitely put a dent in our chances.”
The Grizzlies overcame career bests of 31 points and 20 rebounds by Portland’s Zach Randolph, who had played sparingly since serving a two-game team suspension for punching teammate Ruben Patterson. Randolph, starting for an injured Dale Davis, connected on 13 of 25 shots.
“It was my career night, but it would have looked better if we had won,” Randolph said. “I got a chance. The last two games, I played nine and 11 minutes. Tonight, I got 39 minutes. I just want to get minutes. I knew I was going to get a chance to play a lot.”
“We had 10 guys who made major contributions,” Memphis coach Hubie Brown said. “To us, this was a team that we needed to win against and a good team to beat.”
Memphis didn’t seal the game until Person grabbed a miss with about six seconds left and was fouled. He converted both free throws with 3.2 seconds left for the final margin.
Derek Anderson’s 3-point try for Portland with less than a second left was short.
Portland led 89-87 on a dunk by Arvydas Sabonis with just under five minutes left. But Williams responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Memphis never trailed thereafter.
The Trail Blazers, relying on strength inside, took a 54-47 lead at the break after leading by as many as 20 points in the first half.
Randolph, starting his first game since Jan. 29, dominated the interior. With only a minute gone in the second quarter, the second-year player from Michigan State had a double-double. By halftime, he matched his career high, leading Portland with 21 points.
“It was effort,” Battier said of the Grizzlies’ first-half performance. “Zach Randolph is a bull, and he played very physical. We didn’t match his physical play, and the second half we did.”
The Trail Blazers had 30 points in the paint, compared to 14 for the Grizzlies, while Portland had a 29-17 advantage on the boards, leading to 19 second-chance points in the first half.
But Memphis was able to complete the comeback from 20 down with a flurry to open the second half. Behind Battier, Memphis pulled even, and Williams’ two free throws with just over six minutes to play in the quarter gave the Grizzlies their first lead, 64-62, since the opening minutes.
The Grizzlies held a 79-75 lead entering the final period.
Davis did not dress because of a sore back, marking only the second game he hasn’t started this season for the Trail Blazers. Randolph made his eighth start of the season. … Antonio Daniels also sat out the game recovering from dental surgery. … The Grizzlies avoided being swept by Portland. The Trail Blazers won three of four games this season. Portland leads the overall series 21-10. …Gasol had his fifth double-double in the last six games and has 30 on the season. … Memphis is 20-19 at home this season. …Battier has scored in double figures in four straight games. …The 20-point comeback by the Grizzlies was the largest of the season and third largest infranchise history.