Grizzlies hand Nuggets sixth straight loss

Phil Stukenborg, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Forward Zach Randolph scored 20 points, but it was the Memphis Grizzlies' bench, led by forward Ed Davis and guard Jerryd Bayless, that propelled the Grizzlies to a 120-99 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.
Davis paced the second group with 17 points, Bayless added 15 and forward James Johnson had 14 as the reserves scored a season-high 62 points.
"I think everyone is starting to get comfortable with their roles," Grizzlies starting point guard Mike Conley said of the reserves. "And James Johnson has done a good job of coming in and being a playmaker, which allows (Bayless) to be a scorer."
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 20 points and Wilson Chandler scored 19, but the Nuggets suffered their sixth consecutive loss, the franchise's longest losing streak in nine seasons.
Denver, which won three of four against the Grizzlies last season, was playing Memphis for the first time this season. The Nuggets had the misfortune of running into a Grizzlies team whose reserves are hitting their stride. The bench scored 51 points in a victory over Utah on Monday.
"It takes time," Bayless said of the reserves finding a rhythm. "I think early in the season we still hadn't figured everybody out. With new guys on a new team it takes time to kind of develop a chemistry. I'm not going to say we're there yet, but we are starting to take steps to where we want to be. If we continue to play together and be unselfish and move the ball, I think we can be very good."
The Grizzlies' reserves made 23 of 35 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range. The 62 bench points nearly doubled the team's average of 32.4.
"We're just trying to bring energy and a different dimension when we're out there," Davis said. "We're just trying to pick up where the starters leave off or, if we're down, bring them up."
Johnson, called up from the NBA Development League on Dec. 16, contributed six points, three rebounds, two assists and a block during a 25-7 run that gave the Grizzlies a 25-point lead (110-85) with 4:56 to play.
"I just feel like I'm playing as hard as I can," Johnson said. "I feel like everybody is playing as hard as they can."
Randolph averaged only 13 points in the four games against Denver last season, but he was dominant early in the third quarter when the Grizzlies (13-16) pulled away. The Grizzlies extended their lead to 25 points midway through the final quarter as their bench scored 23 of 25 points during one stretch.
Denver attempted a rally early in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies scored 11 straight -- and 13 of 15 -- to put the game out of reach at 103-83.
"You have to give them credit," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "They played hard. They made shots. Every single time they got an offensive rebound, they turned it into a 3 or at least a bucket at their end."
Each team shot better than 50 percent in the first half. The Nuggets were 20 of 35 for 57.1 percent and the Grizzlies were 24 of 44 for 54.5 percent. Denver led 56-55 at the half.
Setting a torrid pace by shooting 63 percent in the opening quarter, the Nuggets built a seven-point lead (37-30) early in the second quarter before the Grizzlies responded. They went on a 14-1 run powered by their bench and led 44-38 midway through the second quarter.
The Grizzlies opened the second half by going on a 22-9 run to grab a 12-point lead at 77-65. Randolph had eight points during the run for the Grizzlies, who led 85-72 at the end of three quarters.
NOTES: The Grizzlies are 6-10 at the FedExForum through 16 games this season after going 32-9 at home last season. ... Nuggets and former Grizzlies F Darrell Arthur missed the game with a right quadriceps contusion. ... Nuggets F Kenneth Faried, who had missed the previous two games with a left ankle sprain, returned. He fell hard to the court after being fouled by Grizzlies F James Johnson on a layup attempt midway through the second quarter but did not leave the game. ... The Nuggets failed to surpass 100 points for the sixth straight game, while the 120 points scored by the Grizzlies represented a season-high. Denver shot 37 percent in the second half after shooting 57 percent in the first half. ... Denver, the second-best rebounding team in the NBA at 46.5 boards per game, had only 25 rebounds. The Grizzlies had 46, including 19 offensive boards.

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