In a barn-burner in Memphis, the Grizzles rallied from a double-digit deficit and snapped a four-game losing streak with a 100-97 overtime victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies relentless defense and hustle on Tuesday at Fed Ex Forum was a complete reversal of their dismal performance in Monday’s loss against the San Antonio Spurs. Frustrated with their laissez-faire demeanor on the court, the Grizzlies held a players-only post-game meeting to refocus on the things that made them successful last season. And it worked. The Grizzles outhustled, outworked and outplayed the Nuggets down the stretch to force an overtime.
Memphis trailed by as many as 13 in the game, but Tony Allen’s defensive pressure in the second half inspired a Grizzlies rally. Despite their poor shooting in the first half –Memphis shot only 28 percent from the field- including another dismal half for their leading scorers Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol (Gay was 2-of-8 in the half, while Gasol was 2-of-6), the Grizzlies were only down 10 with just over six minutes to play in regulation, 83-73. Memphis then went on an 18-8 run, but was never able to take the lead, tying it twice late in the fourth quarter. The Griz pulled within one at 84-83 after two consecutive baskets by Allen. O.J. Mayo’s eight-foot floater evened the score at 89 with 33.6 seconds to go. Denver’s Al Harrington’s offensive rebound and put-back gave the Nuggets the lead at 91-89, but Allen answered with a dunk to tie it at 91 with 5 seconds remaining. But with a chance to win the game, the Nuggets’ Andre Miller’s runner at the horn spun out forcing OT.
Memphis was able to execute the little things that win games down the stretch on Tuesday. In perhaps the most important sequence of the night, the Grizzlies scrapped and clawed their way to victory. First, Allen emphatic block on Harrington’s jumper forced a 24-second shot clock violation late in the extra period. On the ensuing play, Memphis was able to grab two offensive rebounds on one possession that sent Denver’s head coach George Karl into a frenzy. Grizzlies’ guard Mike Conley chased down the offensive rebound and missed fired on a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Allen, who passed it back out to Conley, who found O.J. Mayo alone at the top of the key. Mayo’s 3-pointer gave the Grizzlies their first lead at 98-97 with 35.1 seconds left. Memphis forced the Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo (eight points) to turn over the ball on the next possession and Conley was able to convert a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to provide the final margin. Denver’s Rudy Fernandez’s, who went scoreless, potential tying 3-point attempt in the waning seconds bounced off the rim.
The loss was Denver’s second straight, following a frustrating Sunday defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers—another game in which the Nuggets’ offense floundered in the closing seconds. Denver’s loss has little to do with the fact that the franchise lack’s a closer, and everything to do with them not being able to execute down the stretch. If the Nuggets made their free throws, rebounded and limited their turnovers, they beat the Grizzles on Tuesday. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Memphis outrebounded Denver 48-42, including a 17-9 edge on the offensive boards, while forcing 25 Nuggets turnovers to help overcome their dismal 38 percent shooting for the game. Harrington led Denver with 23 points -21 after halftime- 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Danilo Gallinari, who is the Nuggets’ leading scorer with a 17.9 average, ended the night going 1-of-10 from the field, finishing with only eight points. Miller finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 from the field and Nene scored 14 points, while Ty Lawson contributed 12. Despite the loss, the Nuggets still have the second-best record in the West Conference, at 14-7. Heading into Thursday’s rematch with the Clippers all Denver has to do is grind it out down the stretch.
For Memphis, Gay and Gasol both overcame poor shooting nights to lead the Grizzlies with 20 points and 13 rebounds apiece. Mayo finished with 18 points, Allen with 17 points and four blocks, and Conley added 11 points, six assists and four steals. The Grizzlies will look to sustain their grit-and-grind play as they embark on a three game road trip against the Atlanta Hawks, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics. No guts, no glory.