Grizzlies beat up on Kings

Ron Higgins, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS -- It had been almost five seasons since the Memphis Grizzlies lost three consecutive games by 20 or more points each as they did in the last week.
And considering this was a team that started the season 12-2 as the surprise of the Western Conference, the sudden tailspin appeared to be alarming.
But it wasn't anything that a closed team meeting, a couple of practices and a lesser opponent couldn't fix as the Grizzlies led almost from start to finish in an 85-69 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night in FedExForum.
There wasn't anything remotely spectacular about the win that improved the Grizzlies to 25-13, the fourth best record in the Western Conference. But the fact the entire Grizzlies starting five scored in double figures, combined with the Kings shooting just 34.1 percent from the field, were indications that everything said in the team meeting about sharing the ball and playing for each other was taken to heart.
"There were honest exchanges, a couple of arguments back and forth, that's what you want as a family," said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who scored a team-high 19 points. "You get it out and get back on the same page."
Judging from the Grizzlies' 18-point first quarter vs. the Kings, never stretching the lead to 20 points or more, there were still times that Memphis didn't appear reading the same book much less being on the same page.
Yet every time the Kings (15-25) looked as if they were about to put together a run, such as cutting the Grizzlies lead to eight points with 7:57 left to play, the guy everyone figured would inject energy into the Grizzlies did time and again.
Guard Tony Allen, considered one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders, made plays on both ends of the floor, shutting down Sacramento's Tyreke Evans and attacking the basket fervently. He finished with 14 points and had season highs of nine rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots.
"I'm the defensive catalyst of this team, the glue guy, the stopper," Allen said. "Whatever else comes with it, so be it."
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said the grinding game fit Allen.
"We got just enough style points offensively, and our defense was strong," Hollins said. "Tony was very focused. He penetrated and made plays after they (the Kings) made runs. He attacked the basket and made plays."
Allen's big night spurred balanced scoring throughout a starting lineup that was missing Zach Randolph. Randolph and his NBA-leading 25 double-doubles sat out the game with a lower back strain.
Center Marc Gasol picked up some of Randolph's slack with his fifth double-double of the season, going for 14 points and 10 rebounds. Marreese Speights, who started in Randolph's place, had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, who had game-highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds, kept his team from totally disappearing. But he had little help, only getting an occasional late-game spark from reserve Travis Outlaw, who had eight points in 15 minutes, including two fourth-quarter threes.
"We had a spurt late in the game," Kings' coach Keith Smart said, "but had we had one of those in the first or second quarter, we would have had a good chance to win. But we could never get ourselves into anything easy to start runs. We couldn't find the right energy or rhythm we needed."
The Grizzlies, who shot 43.6 percent from the field, weren't exactly in rhythm. For instance, in its 18-point first quarter, Memphis hit eight of its first nine shots before 11 of its last 12 attempts in the period.
Notes: The Grizzlies have won six straight games at home against the Kings. ... Sacramento had season lows in points (69) and field goal percentage (34.1). ... The Kings' 30 first-half points was a low by a Grizzlies opponent this year. ... Gasol had a double-double, and Memphis is 5-0 this season when Gasol has a double-double. ... Cousins had his 17th double-double of the season. ... Memphis avoided its second four-game losing streak of the season by recording its second double-digit win over the Kings.

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