MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph says a new-look, trimmed-down Marc Gasol has him jealous.
“You can tell he’s been focused all summer,” Randolph said. “He’s got a six-pack (stomach). He’s got me motivated.”
Wednesday night in the Grizzlies opener, Gasol, the team’s center, scored a career-high 32 points and forward Randolph added 25 points and 13 rebounds in a 105-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Grizzlies won their 15th straight home game and snapped an 0-13 record in home openers since relocating to Memphis from Vancouver. The victory was the Grizzlies’ 14th in the past 16 games against the Timberwolves.
Two free throws by guard Vince Carter, in his first season with the Grizzlies, with 7.3 seconds remaining sealed the win, but it was Gasol and Randolph, among the best low-post tandems in the league, who provided the inside muscle and offense. Gasol and Randolph combined to go 24-of-33 from the field with 22 rebounds.
“It’s fun to watch when you have two big men who can do what they do,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said. “And it was a night where we had to exploit that (advantage).”
Gasol played a game-high 37 minutes and Randolph 35 as the Grizzlies’ starters had to take up the slack for a bench that was highly effective last season but faltered in this season’s opener. Against the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies’ bench scored just 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
Gasol scored 16 points in each half, while Randolph was 8-of-10 in the opening half.
“They did a great job,” said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. “Zach got going earlier (than normal), which was good. He didn’t ease himself into the game. He wanted to be a leader and get out in front.
“And Marc was very assertive and I thought he took the ball to the basket with force.”
Gasol attempted to downplay his slimmer look and his aggressive play. Instead he said he was motivated by the team’s first-round exit in last year’s playoffs and the left knee sprain that sidelined him for 23 games last season.
“After last year and the injury, I felt I had to take a step forward,” he said. “And losing to Oklahoma City in the seventh game gave me motivation.”
Conley added 16 points for the Grizzlies and forward Thaddeus Young led the Timberwolves with 26. Timberwolves rookie forward Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, had six points and three rebounds in his regular-season debut.
Ahead by six at the half, the Grizzlies pushed their advantage to 10 late in the third quarter behind a 13-7 run. A layup from Conley off a steal by guard Tony Allen made it 75-65. Gasol’s turnaround hook in the final minute gave the Grizzlies an 81-74 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Minnesota opened the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run to take an 87-85 lead. Reserve forward Anthony Bennett’s 22-footer, shortly after his high-flying dunk, put the Timberwolves ahead for the first time in the second half.
Memphis recovered and was aided by a flagrant-1 foul call on Timberwolves guard Mo Williams with 1:40 left and the Grizzlies up 98-96. Conley made one of two free throws and the Grizzlies retained possession. Gasol scored on a 20-footer to extend the Memphis lead to 101-96. The Timberwolves could get no closer than two (101-99 and 103-101) in the closing minute.
“I told our guys that I was really happy with the way we competed,” said Minnesota coach Flip Saunders. “We played hard.”
The Grizzlies shot 52.4 percent from the field in the first half to take a 53-47 lead. Gasol and Randolph each had 16 points and six rebounds at the break.
Memphis made eight of its first nine shots from the floor to build an early seven-point advantage at 17-10, but the Timberwolves rallied against the Grizzlies’ reserves and used an 11-1 run to take a 27-25 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Gasol scored 13 of his 16 first-half points in the second quarter to help the Grizzlies regain the lead. He had eight of Memphis’ first 10 points in the quarter and his 20-footer with 9:13 to go gave the Grizzlies a 31-30 lead. Memphis did not trail again in the half.
Young, a Memphis native, had 13 first-half points for the Timberwolves, who shot 38.3 percent from the field in the opening half and were slowed by 11 turnovers.
NOTES: The Grizzlies’ NBA Developmental League affiliate, the Iowa Energy, will play a regular-season game on Nov. 8 at FedExForum against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Miami Heat’s NBDL club. … Flip Saunders began his second stint as Timberwolves coach on Wednesday night. Saunders spent 10 seasons (from 1995-96 to 2004-05) with the Timberwolves, compiling a 411-326 record, including a trip to the 2004 Western Conference finals. … The Grizzlies’ last opening-night win came Oct. 31, 2000, in Seattle. … Three rookies — F Andrew Wiggins, G Zach LaVine and F Glenn Robinson III — are on the Timberwolves’ roster. Wiggins was chosen first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Draft in June before being acquired in a trade. LaVine, a 6-foot-5 guard from UCLA, was a first-round pick by the Timberwolves.
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