Hornets surprise more physical Grizzlies, beat Memphis

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- With a space eater such as 260-pound forward Zach Randolph and an active 7-foot-1 center in Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies consistently showcase one of the best rebounding front courts in the NBA.
But in a 90-83 victory over the playoff-bound Grizzlies Friday night, the New Orleans Hornets, with pencil-thin rookie forward Anthony Davis and unheralded center Robin Lopez attacking the boards, showed plenty of energy and hustle to compensate for their lack of muscle.
Lopez scored 23 points, including a critical rebound follow with 1:11 left for his 10th rebound of the game, and Davis had 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds -- his 16th double-double of the season -- to hold off the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter after losing most of a 16-point lead.
It was the Hornets' second consecutive win against a team in strong playoff position, following up on an 87-86 victory over Boston on Wednesday. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said it all came down the Hornets' relentless board work.
"They did a job on us on the boards," Hollins said after the Hornets outrebounded the Grizzlies 49-33, including a combined 11 offensive rebounds by Davis and Lopez. "That was pretty much the story of the night."
The Hornets (24-46) blew all but two points of a 16-point fourth-quarter lead but held on for the win. Leading 76-60 with 9:18 left, the Hornets allowed the Grizzlies (46-22) to go on a 21-7 run to cut the deficit to 83-81 with 2:37 remaining.
But Greivis Vasquez, who had 12 points and nine assists, canned a 3-pointer from the left wing to stop the bleeding and put New Orleans up 86-81. That open look was set up by Davis, who skied high over Randolph to rebound Vasquez's errant 3-pointer just a few seconds earlier.
"Our bigs did a great job," Vasquez said. "This kid Anthony Davis is going to be a player. He's doing that against Zach Randolph. I know Zach. I played with him for a year, and he's a monster. He was frustrated with AD."
Lopez, who had eight points and six rebounds in his previous two games, came out of a scrum under the basket to hit a follow-up shot with 71 seconds left to put the Hornets back up, 88-81. Lopez got the ball because Davis used his incredible wingspan to tip the ball his way.
"That was all Anthony, honestly," Lopez said. "He crashed the boards. He attracted Zach and Marc, and I was just right there for the put-back."
Davis, who had 20 points and 18 rebounds against the Grizzlies on March 9, said he is just following the instructions of Hornets coach Monty Williams, who told him he had to use his speed, athleticism and leaping ability to make up for his lack of strength against beefier power forwards such as Randolph.
"He's a big body, and I just tried to play my kind of defense and not give him easy buckets," Davis said. "He's too strong, and that's not my game right now. I tried to use my quickness to my advantage."
The Hornets held the Grizzlies without a field goal over the final six minutes of the third quarter and compiled a 22-9 run over an eight-minute span of the third and fourth quarters. That turned a 56-55 lead into a 78-64 advantage.
The Hornets also outscored the Grizzlies 34-22 in the second quarter.
"The only way we are going to get better is to stay with the things we know are our foundation -- defense is where it's at," Williams said. "We can get mesmerized by a great offense, but at the end of the day, that's who we are."
The Grizzlies were paced by Mike Conley with 20 points, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Gasol with 16. The Grizzlies had won 16 of their previous 19 games.
NOTES: The Hornets had nine blocks in the second half. Lopez had four. ... Lopez scored 10 consecutive points in the third quarter. ... Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur, who missed the last nine games with soreness in his neck and back, returned to action against the Hornets. "You have an extra big person, and you have someone who can shoot the ball from the outside," said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. Arthur is averaging 6.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. ... Hollins said Davis, the NBA's No. 1 overall pick, impressed him with his growing awareness. "I think he's played extremely well for a rookie," Hollins said. "If he hadn't had the injuries, I think he would be right in the running for rookie of the year." ... Williams said he believes shooting guard Eric Gordon, who missed the first half of the season while rehabbing a right knee injury, is beginning to play with more consistency. "It's tough for him to be consistent when he has restrictions coming back from injuries," Williams said. "At the same time, we expect him to be consistent. What we'd like to get from him is a complete game at a high level. When he does that, we have a great chance to win." ... Williams said he'll give the 6-foot-10, 220-pound Davis about "two weeks" off to rest in the offseason before he makes his pencil-thin forward hit the weight room. "He's certainly going to have to get stronger. This summer he's going to live in the weight room and he's going to have to shoot a lot of shots. He's got to get a better understanding of the NBA game. ... Once he gets stronger, he could set a (rebounding) record. He gets beat up so much it's unreal. But he stays in there. He doesn't have strength. He doesn't have experience. So right now he just has to use his length and his quickness."

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