Grizzlies' newcomers fit in fine in beating Kings

Ron Higgins, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS -- It has been seven games since the Memphis Grizzlies sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in a three-team trade with Detroit.
Judging from the Grizzlies' third straight victory on Tuesday night, a 108-101 victory over Sacramento that edged Memphis into fourth place in the Western Conference in its final game before the All-Star game, Memphis has regained its mojo.
Incorporating three new players -- starter Tayshaun Prince and reserves Austin Daye and Ed Davis in the playing rotation -- the Grizzlies (33-18) feel much better about themselves than almost two weeks ago when Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto.
"We're taking steps forward," said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who had game highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds. "We're getting to know each other a little better. We may need different things out of different guys at different times, but everybody has their roles."
For the Grizzlies to turn back the pesky Kings (19-34), they had to get some players stepping outside their usual personas, such guard Tony Allen.
Memphis, though it outshot Sacramento from the field (54.7 percent to 46.5 percent), could simply not throw the ball inside and outmuscle the Kings. Gasol and all-star forward Zach Randolph (13 points, 9 rebounds) had nice games, but the Kings still held a 58-48 points in the paint scoring advantage.
Part of that was Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scoring 23 points, and part of it was guard Tyreke Evans scoring a large portion of his 20 points on slashing drives.
It meant the Grizzlies had to counter with some backcourt points of their own. Conley's 22 points weren't unexpected. But Allen's season-high 19 points, including his third 3-pointer of the season, was most welcomed.
"I've just started taking advantage of what the defense is giving me," said Allen, who's shooting 65 percent from the field and averaging 11.5 points so far in the month of February. "I stopped forcing things and I've been working with my shooting coach."
Conley said Allen is near unstoppable when he's dialed in on finishing fast breaks.
"He's just a real powerful player when we get out in transition," Conley said. "He's strong and he's explosive, and one of the best in the league at finishing when he gets to the basket."
Memphis stretched its lead to nine points with 5:48 left in the third quarter before the Kings pulled to 68-67, attacking the basket and running as much as possible. When it seemed the Grizzlies were on the ropes, Allen's hustle and unexpected offense turned Memphis back in the right direction. His two acrobatic drives in the last two minutes, including a crossover reverse, nudged Memphis to an 11-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Kings managed to slice the Grizzlies' margin to 99-93 with 4:19 left on an Evans drive, but Conley responded six of the Grizzlies' next six points to stave off Sacramento.
"We put ourselves into position to have a shot at the end, but we didn't convert some fast breaks and didn't get at least three consecutive stops," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "And we didn't come up with loose balls."
While the Kings became the first team to score 100 points in the Grizzlies' homecourt that was no consolation to Cousins, who thought Memphis is even a deeper team after Gay's departure.
"There's definitely a lot more passing, they share the ball better and there's just a balanced flow," Cousins said. "They are a tough team to guard, because every position on the floor is a threat, even their second unit."
NOTES: During the Grizzlies' three-game winning as newcomers Prince, Daye and Davis have learned the offense after being traded from Detroit (Prince, Daye) and Minnesota (Davis), the Grizzlies' ball movement looked like it did two years ago when Gay was out with shoulder surgery. The ball is whipping around the perimeter and quickly being dumped inside to Randolph and Gasol, something that didn't happen in recent weeks before Gay's trade. "The ball is moving more often," Hollins said before the game. "Our guys are starting to trust each other and seem to be having fun playing with each other. When everybody is productive, the ball moves more."... The Grizzlies shot 54.7 percent vs. the Kings, just shy of Memphis' season high 54.8 against Philadelphia on Jan. 28. ... Evans' 20 points was his 11th 20th point game of the year. ... Gasol's 24 points and 12 rebounds marked his fourth double-double in his last six games. The Grizzlies are 8-2 this year when Gasol has a double-double. ... Since Gay's departure and the arrival of Prince, Daye and Davis, the Grizzlies have assisted on 62.5 percent of their made field goals (142 assists for 227 field goals made).

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