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Gasol’s block preserves Grizzlies’ win over Suns

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PHOENIX — The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t used to shooting 43 percent from the field or allowing 62 points in the paint to an opponent. They did both Monday night but still managed to accomplish something they are used to — beating the Phoenix Suns.

Memphis center Marc Gasol scored 15 points, collected eight assists and blocked a shot by Phoenix forward Markieff Morris with 1.4 seconds left, and the Grizzlies beat the Suns for the seventh straight time, 102-101, at US Airways Center.

“The ball got to Morris and I had a chance to block it and I got my hand on it,” said Gasol, who produced nine of his 15 points in the second half. “We scrambled and we fought. We put ourselves in a bad situation and they got back in the game, but we stuck with it, we kept fighting. We got a few stops, made some shots, and Jeff (Green) hit the big ‘and-one’ and won the game.”

Down 101-94 after a 3-pointer by Phoenix’s Isaiah Thomas with 1:49 left, the Grizzlies dug in, scored the final eight points and notched their seventh straight win overall.

Green had a three-point play with 4.5 seconds left, turning a missed 3-pointer by guard Mike Conley into Memphis’ 16th offensive rebound of the night. The forward put in a 5-footer as he was fouled by guard Eric Bledsoe, and he added the free throw for the winning point.

The Grizzlies scored 22 second-chance points, and the last three won it.

“I’d been struggling all game, and I just wanted to come through for the team,” said Green, who missed eight of his first 11 shots. “I knew when (Conley’s) shot went up I would try to use my length to try to get there. It was a game nobody really had it going, but we worked together and got it done.”

Memphis improved its record to 36-12, the best start in franchise history. The Grizzlies own the NBA’s second-longest active winning streak behind the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 11-game run.

Conley had 23 points for the Grizzlies, who are 11-1 since a double-overtime win over Phoenix on Jan. 11 in Memphis. Forward Zach Randolph overcame a 1-for-6 first half to score 19 points and add nine rebounds. Green finished with 12 points.

“When we turned the ball over, they got out to easy buckets every single time,” Conley said. “When we controlled the tempo and the glass (outrebounding the Suns 46-38, things changed.) … I’m proud of us for sticking with it and doing what it took to win.”

Guard Isaiah Thomas scored all 24 of his points in the second half and 16 in the fourth quarter for the Suns, who had 27 fastbreak points, using Memphis misses and turnovers to get back in the game.

Bledsoe scored 21 points and guard Goran Dragic added 15 as the Suns (28-22) used their three-guard lineup to pester the bigger Grizzlies.

Phoenix rode a 17-4 run fueled by Thomas and Bledsoe to turn an 87-81 deficit into a 98-91 lead on two Bledsoe free throws with 3:31 to go.

However, Bledsoe committed two of Phoenix’s 16 turnovers on either side of the Suns’ final basket, a 3-pointer by Thomas that made it 101-94 with 1:49 left.

“It was my fault. I made two critical plays at the end that can’t happen,” Bledsoe said. “They came down and got two easy looks at the basket. It’s real tough to know we’re right there and we keep losing off crazy plays.

“Green made a great play getting the rebound (on the winning shot), but I don’t think I fouled him.”

Randolph had two points at the half and the Grizzlies missed 29 of its first 50 field-goal attempts but still led thanks to a 21-6 scoring advantage from the bench. Memphis closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run and started the second with eight straight points over the first three minutes against the Phoenix’s second unit. Swingman Tony Allen’s lay-in gave the Grizzlies a 33-23 lead.

“We usually have a good bench, but for whatever reason they didn’t look ready to go tonight,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They got back-cut by guys who aren’t shooters.”

Hornacek went back to his starters quickly and they responded with nine straight points — five by Dragic and four by Morris — to wipe out the Memphis lead. The Grizzlies responded, and Conley’s 22-footer with one second left gave his team a 49-44 lead at the half.

NOTES: Memphis allowed 69 points to Denver and 74 points to Oklahoma City in its previous two games, both wins. The Grizzlies became the first team to allow 75 points or fewer in consecutive games since the Indiana Pacers from Nov. 27-29, 2013. … The Suns won 10 games in January (10-5), their first 10-win month since going 11-5 in January 2008. … Memphis F Zach Randolph was the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week, putting up 20.5 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in leading the Grizzlies to four wins. … Memphis G Mike Conley averaged 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in the previous six games against Phoenix, all wins. … Memphis C Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau of the Chicago Bulls, will become the first brothers to play in the same All-Star Game since former Suns Dick and Tom Van Arsdale did it in 1970 and 1971.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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