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Big third quarter boosts Grizzlies to easy win

The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS -- One month and 16 games remain in the regular season, and the Memphis Grizzlies just keep on doing what they've been doing.

Ball movement. Balanced scoring. Team defense with every defender moving appropriately.

Against the good teams in the NBA, it's the difference in close wins. But against the bottom-feeders, it means bench-clearing blowouts, like the one the Grizzlies enjoyed Monday night, a 92-77 laugher over the Minnesota Timberwolves at FedExForum.

The Grizzlies (45-21) led just 45-39 at the half, but they opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run. Just six minutes into the period, Memphis' lead was 20, and it went as high as 25 before the Grizzlies began losing interest.

"It's just a mindset we have to come out the third quarter and we really play," Grizzlies' coach Lionel Hollins said. "We've pretty much been a third-quarter team all year long. Once we get it going, we're pretty good."

Five players scored in double figures for the Grizzlies, led by Mike Conley, who had 20 points and six assists. Marc Gasol (16 points, eight rebounds), Jerryd Bayless (15 points), Zach Randolph (14 points, 10 rebounds), Tayshaun Prince (12 points, 14 rebounds) also made key contributions.

All five starters scored points in the Griz's burst of points that opened the second half. Memphis more than doubled the Timberwolves' third quarter scoring, 29-14, with the Griz hitting 13-of-19 from the field (68.4 percent) while limiting Minnesota to 19 percent (4-of-21).

Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, whose 23-42 team was led by 12 points from Alexey Shved, said his team looked tired after beating New Orleans Sunday night.

"I don't know if it's as much to do with them as it is to do with ourselves," Adelman said. "I think we ran out of gas. At the start of the third quarter, it was like we had nothing left. They (Memphis) are a very good team and took advantage of it."

It didn't help Minnesota's cause that starting point guard Ricky Rubio limped to the Timberwolves' bench with 3:32 left in the third quarter and never returned. Adelman said that Rubio said he could have played, but Adelman said it "wasn't worth it" to put Rubio back in a game that became a blowout.

The Timberwolves did put up a fight early, but the Grizzlies were lethargic, as they often have been against weaker teams. However, the Griz made a 9-0 run in the last 3:39 to take a 22-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Grizzlies had another strong finish in the second quarter, outscoring the Timberwolves 10-5 in the final 3:06 for a 45-39 advantage at the break.

From there, the Griz got down to business in their locker room.

"We go into halftime and really look at film to see what are a team's weaknesses," Conley said. "We look for what we are able to get away with or what we haven't been able to get away with. Then, we go out and try to exploit it in a lot of ways."

The Grizzlies, winners of 15 of their last 18 games, believe there's no time for slippage, not when they are wedged in third place in the Western Conference, just behind the Clippers and just ahead of the Nuggets.

"We come out every night knowing we're playing for something bigger," Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "We're playing for homecourt advantage."

NOTES: Memphis now has beaten Minnesota 10 straight times, the longest winning streak against an opponent in Griz franchise history. . .Minnesota is 1-16 this season when scoring fewer than 90 points. . . Conley broke his own single-season record for steals. He had two swipes to up his season total to 146, and he now has at least one steal in an NBA season-high 57 straight games. . . Shved led the Timberwolves in scoring for the eighth time this season . . . Randolph's double-double was his 38th of the year. . .Minnesota has lost 16 of its last 17 road games, including eight straight. . .The Grizzlies have won eight straight at home to improve to 26-8 in the FedExForum this year. . .Memphis went 2-2 on last week's West Coast road swing, winning Tuesday and Wednesday at Portland and at the Clippers before losing Friday and Saturday at Denver and Utah. The reason the Grizzlies have stayed in the top five of the Western Conference all season is they've never had a losing streak longer than three games, which has happened twice (once each in December and January).
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