Grizzlies 110, Raptors 104
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—A change in coaches meant a change in style—and results — for the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Tony Barone era got off to a running start Saturday night, as Memphis built an early 24-point lead with a less-disciplined, fast-paced offense, then held off a late rally to beat the Toronto Raptors 110-104.
“It’s a great win for these guys,” Barone said of the Grizzlies, who snapped a five-game losing streak. “It’s a weight off their shoulders. I’m dead tired. I’m done. I’ve told (Jerry West, president of basketball operations) I’m done. That was enough.”
“When you’re up and you have the lead in games, you enjoy it,” said Gasol, one of several players who expressed frustration in recent weeks. “You don’t enjoy being down and getting (beaten) time after time.”
Barone took over as coach on an interim basis after Mike Fratello was fired Thursday. Barone received a warm reception even when he came out of the tunnel before the game.
The Grizzlies showed a level of intensity and enthusiasm unseen in recent weeks while they were losing 14 of 16 games.
“We made a concerted effort of running up and down the court,” said Memphis guard Eddie Jones, who had eight points. “You get the ball, you’re open, shoot the basketball. I think we were just playing the game and not doing a lot of thinking. I think when the game is like that sometimes, you tend to have fun.”
Morris Peterson scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Raptors pull within 106-104 when Jorge Garbajosa hit a 15-footer with 1:14 left. But Memphis hit four free throws in the final 13.5 seconds.
Peterson gave the Raptors their first lead since the opening bucket at 95-94 when he hit a 3-pointer with 6:29 left. But Miller nailed a pair of 3-pointers on the Grizzlies’ next two possessions, and Toronto never regained the lead. Miller connected on 7-of-12 outside the arc.
“Mike Miller made some deep 3s, and they played with a lot of emotion,” Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. “We felt if we kept chipping away, we could get back in the game.”
The Raptors were without their two main offensive threats. Center Chris Bosh, Toronto’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed his 12th game with a left knee injury. Meanwhile, guard T.J. Ford, the team’s second-leading scorer and assist leader, was dressed, but did not play after spraining his ankle in Friday’s 107-97 loss to Chicago.
“It’s tough,” Peterson said. “In this league, you never know who you’re going to have to play with or how many soldiers you’re going to have. You can’t use that as an excuse.”
From the start, Memphis showed a more freewheeling, less deliberate offense. Barone stood on the sidelines shouting words of encouragement and clapping enthusiastically when Gay drove the baseline on the break for a dunk.
Barone had said before the game that Memphis was abandoning the theory of “running plays simply to run plays.” By most accounts, Memphis ran only about a handful of halfcourt plays in the entire game.
The running style translated into the early lead, drawing steady applause from the Memphis crowd. The Grizzlies led 39-18 at the first break—a season high for points in a quarter and a far cry from their 19.6 average in the opening period.
Memphis ran the floor, got out on the break and ran a simpler offense designed to get players in position for open shots. The Grizzlies shot 65 percent in the quarter and outscored Toronto 18-0 in the paint during the first period.
There were times when Memphis players seemed to hit the wall from exhaustion brought on by the running style compared to the slower pace under Fratello, but they were able to hold on until the end.
“Pau was dead tired. There’s nothing wrong with his foot. His wind was bad,” Barone said of the All-Star center, who still is getting in playing shape after a broken foot caused him to miss the first 22 games.
Eddie Jones was in the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 12. He missed 13 games with an Achilles’ injury, then has come off the bench in the last 11 games while Dahntay Jones started. … The Raptors are 6-6 since Bosh was injured. … Ford had started all 30 games for the Raptors this season, prior to sitting out Saturday. … A Raptors victory would have meant the biggest comeback in franchise history. Toronto overcame 22-point deficits twice against Washington, in 1996 and 2005.