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Grizzlies take 'baby steps' in win over Warriors

The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS -- Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen didn't need to look at a board near the team's FedExForum dressing room showing the current Western Conference standings to understand the urgency of Friday's game against Golden State.

After two straight losses and still reeling from two trades that sent five players (including leading scorer Rudy Gay) packing, the Grizzlies had slipped from fourth to fifth place a half game ahead of the Warriors.

"We look at those standings everyday when we walk out, so we knew those guys were on our heels," said Allen, a defensive specialist who scored a season-high 17 points in a 99-93 Grizzlies' victory. "We came out and played for one another."

The team that seemed to be a jumbled mess since the Gay trade 10 days ago finally seemed to be playing on a string defensively. Offensively, the ball moved smoothly with the offense being run through post players Marc Gasol (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (16 points, 12 rebounds).

Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, who staged a 22-minute pregame news conference to emphasize he and the team's new front office of new owner Mark Pera were on the same page, said it was his team's best performance since the trades.

"We're taking baby steps trying to come back and be a good team, because we haven't been a good team," Hollins said. "We hadn't played with passion and energy, but I thought we did tonight."

The Grizzlies (31-18), stuck in the low 40s in shooting percentage as of late, hit six of their first eight shots and rolled from there. They finished 46.2 percent from the field, and actually outshot the Warriors (30-20), the NBA's best 3-point shooting team, from beyond the arc (40 percent to 35 percent). Memphis tied a franchise record for most 3s in a quarter, dropping in six 3-pointers in the second period when the Griz pushed their way to a 63-56 lead at the half.

"I don't care who you are playing against, giving up 63 points in a half is unacceptable," Warriors' guard Draymond Green said. "You're not going to win games like that. Memphis still looks like the same team, even without Rudy Gay (traded to Toronto in a three-team deal). They still play their offense through their big men."

But unlike the Warriors, who got more than half their points from Seth Curry (32 points) and David Lee (26), Memphis had five players in double figures including two off a Grizzlies bench that outscored the Warriors' reserves, 33-13.

"It helped us to play against a team with such a fast-pace," Grizzlies' point guard Mike Conley said. "It forced us to play their game. It made us more aware offensively and defensively. I thought we played great team defense. They had a lot of shooters and a lot of scorers. We'll live with those two guys (Curry and Lee) scoring a lot, but not having it spread out."

The win was a relief for the Grizzlies, who are 5-4 since the first of the team's two trades on Jan. 23 and 2-2 since trading Gay to Toronto.

Hollins made it clear prior to the trade of Gay last week that he preferred the core of a team not be traded before the end of this season. But he said prior to Friday's game he and the new Grizzlies' front office, led by Joseph Levien, the Grizzlies' CEO and managing partner, have open communication.

"A lot of my comments have been taken like I am against the (new) ownership and management," Hollins said. "In both trades, they kept me abreast. I talk to management on a regular basis. We talk about how we can make the team better. They make the decision. I live with that and I always lived with that. I don't have to agree with everything. But it's not for me to tear down once a decision has been made."

Levien said he and Hollins have "been on the same page since Day 1."

"The communication (with Hollins) has been very strong," Levien said. "We talk about the direction of the team and talk about players around the league that he really values.

"When we go into our discussions as management talking about what our opportunities are, we keep in mind the players that coach values."

Hollins admitted the trading of Gay, who had played more games than any Grizzlies player, was emotional for him and the players.

"When you raise somebody from a child to manhood, like these guys who have been together when they were winning 20 to 22 games and now getting up to 45, 48 games, there's always a letdown when something like that happens," Hollins said. "Yes, I've been emotional about the trade. I don't want it to be taken that I can't move forward, and I don't want my players to take it that I can't move forward."

Notes: The Grizzlies scored 60-plus points in the first half for just the second time this season. ... Golden State now has a three-game losing streak, tying its longest of the season. ... Memphis has won nine straight over the Warriors, including a 4-0 sweep for the second consecutive season. ... Griz reserve guard Jerryd Bayless scored in double figures for the ninth straight game, the second longest streak of his career.
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