Grizzlies' bench sparks victory over Timberwolves

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The second-half defense from the Memphis Grizzlies wasn't a surprise. The bench play, however, wasn't expected.
But while Memphis might be best known for Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies reserves deserve much of the credit for Saturday night's 99-86 victory at Minnesota at Target Center.
"I went to the bench and they just took over the game," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
That wasn't an exaggeration. Led by Darrell Arthur, Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter, Memphis opened the fourth quarter on a 16-2 spurt, erasing a Timberwolves lead in the process. When Arthur buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:58 to play, Memphis led 86-73 and the Grizzlies were well on their way to snapping their five-game road losing streak.
Pondexter stretched the lead to 13, 86-73, with a 3-pointer with 5:11 to play. By the time the Memphis starters returned with 4:38 to play, the Grizzlies were firmly in control.
"The bench hasn't been playing well as of late," Arthur said. "I think we need to find our identity before the playoffs come. We did a great job coming in and playing with some energy in the second half and just finding our niche."
The play was welcomed from the Grizzlies starters, a group that very much looked like it was playing for the sixth time in nine days.
"They made a statement to start the fourth quarter to help us out," Tayshaun Prince said. "The bench guys showed they have some legs for us."
Said Hollins: "They provided a spark. They defended, they rebounded, got a few fast break points out of it."
Gasol led Memphis with 21 points and eight rebounds while Conley added 19 points. Randolph scored 14 points for the Grizzlies while Arthur finished with 15, 11 in the fourth quarter.
Ricky Rubio's near triple-double wasn't enough for the Timberwolves. Rubio led Minnesota with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Derrick Williams added 19 while Greg Stiemsma finished with 12.
The Timberwolves played without center Nikola Pekovic, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. Pekovic, Minnesota's second-leading scorer, has missed 18 games because of injury.
With the victory, Memphis swept both games of a Friday-Saturday back-to-back. Friday's victory over Houston and the win over the Timberwolves give the Grizzlies 49 victories this season, one shy of a franchise record.
Minnesota, which defeated Oklahoma City on Friday night, missed an opportunity to complete one of its best weekends of the season.
In addition to the fourth-quarter bench play, Memphis was also very good defensively after halftime. Minnesota was limited to just 36 points after the break, only four more than the season low for second-half points for the Timberwolves.
"They lock in," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "Their starters are big and strong and their second group came in and did a helluva job. Their two big men were very active and quick. The first half we did a nice job, but we just didn't get anything going offensively (in the second half)."
The Grizzlies limited Minnesota to 17 third-quarter points and led 65-63 when Conley made a 3-pointer with 1:07 to play in the period. Minnesota, however, scored the final four points of the quarter and took a 67-65 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Seeking its first back-to-back sweep since December, Minnesota played a strong first half against the Grizzlies and led 50-45 at the break.
NOTES: Minnesota has been able to score more frequently since the return of Chase Budinger from a knee injury. Saturday was Budinger's seventh game back and and the Timberwolves have averaged 105.8 points per game in the first six. In addition, two of the three times Minnesota has scored at least 115 points have come since Budinger's return. "He spaces the court," Adelman said. "People don't leave him whether he makes it or not. And he gives us really good ball movement." ... Conley has been on a roll for Memphis. Over the past 16 games, he is averaging 17.6 points, 7.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game. ... The Grizzlies are 14-1 this season while shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. They are also 22-1 when scoring at least 100 points.

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