And that’s exactly the way it turned out.
Pau Gasol scored 36 points, and the Grizzlies used a dominant defensive effort to pull away early and beat the Knicks 91-75 Friday night for their sixth straight victory.
“The thing that we wanted to do here was jump on it quick,” Gasol said. “When you’re a team that’s not having a good year like they are—they have so many losses—when you jump on them early it’s kind of hard to get back up. That’s what we wanted to do and it worked out pretty well.”
Top reserve Mike Miller added 15 points for the Grizzlies, who equaled their longest winning streak of the season and moved into a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth place in the Western Conference. Lorenzen Wright contributed 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Grizzlies had plenty of help from the Knicks, who had 20 turnovers that led to 31 points. New York is last in the league in that category, averaging 17.5 coming into Friday’s game.
“At halftime I think out of 47 points, 27 of them came out of either turnovers or second shots,” Knicks coach Larry Brown said. “And then in the third quarter, I think we were down 24, I looked they had 28 points off turnovers and we had two. And I think that’s been the case all year.”
Eddy Curry had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who fell behind by double digits midway through the second quarter and never threatened again as their latest losing streak reached four games.
New York couldn’t overcome its lowest-scoring first half during one of its worst offensive performances of a dismal season. The Knicks made only six field goals between the final 2 minutes of the first quarter and the first 2 minutes of the third.
David Lee’s basket with 1:17 to go allowed the Knicks to avoid their lowest point total of the season. New York was held to 72 in a 28-point loss at Dallas on Feb. 13.
The Knicks shot 54 percent and trailed by only four after one quarter, but the Grizzlies quickly pulled away in the second. Memphis opened the period with a 14-3 burst, opening a 36-21 lead with 4:53 remaining in the half on a 3-pointer by Eddie Jones. New York had five turnovers and one field goal during that stretch.
“We did a good job of forcing turnovers,” Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. “That was one of the big factors of the game, to open up the lead there in the second quarter.”
New York shot 5-for-18 (28 percent) in the second quarter and Memphis took a 47-31 halftime lead. The Knicks’ previous worst first half this season was when they scored 33 points against Detroit on Jan. 19.
Memphis didn’t let up in the third quarter. Miller scored eight points in the period, including consecutive 3-pointers as the lead ballooned to 64-40 and sparked louder, more frequent boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Miller was the only Memphis reserve to score. But the bench helped the Grizzlies, who allow 88.6 points per game to rank second in the league, to break open the game. The Grizzlies held the Knicks to 38 percent shooting.
“Our job is to come in there and try to increase the lead and try to stabilize the lead that we have,” Miller said. “We got it going a little bit, but our defense was something that got it going tonight.”
With Brown again keeping most of his starters on the bench in the fourth quarter, New York got as close as 83-70 with 4:23 remaining. But Fratello reinserted Shane Battier, who hit two free throws and a follow dunk on the next two possessions to put away the game.
Knicks forward Channing Frye was in the locker room on crutches, three days after a sprained knee ligament ended his solid rookie season. “I definitely think it was successful,” Frye said, “any time you come and play for a team like this with a lot of great talent, especially at the 4 and the 5, and get to play as much as I did. Even though I had times where I just didn’t put up numbers, I felt like I did everything a lot better.” … The Grizzlies also won six in a row from Nov. 25-Dec. 6. … Knicks F Qyntel Woods was not with the team because of flu-like symptoms.