DENVER — The Memphis Grizzlies had all the 3-point shooters covered to prevent a game-tying shot in the final seconds.
They weren’t expecting center Timofey Mozgov to straddle the arc for the Denver Nuggets.
Mozgov’s strong night nearly became legendary when he launched a game-tying 3-point attempt with 4.9 seconds left. The 7-foot-1 Russian made his first NBA 3-pointer last week, but this time he couldn’t connect, and the Grizzlies escaped with a 94-92 win.
Forward Zach Randolph scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and guard Mike Conley added 19 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute for the Grizzlies, who kept pace in a tight playoff chase.
Memphis guard Courtney Lee also contributed 19 points.
“We’ve got to keep playing. Each game is an important game for us, so we’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency,” Randolph said. “A lot of teams is just freestyling, ain’t going postseason so they don’t care so they’re playing freely. We’re playing for something, so we’ve got to come out from the beginning.”
After reaching the Western Conference Finals last year, the Grizzlies (44-30) are just trying to make the playoffs this year. They pulled even with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns in a tie for seventh in the West with eight games remaining for each.
Denver, conversely, is just trying to finish strong in a lost season. After suffering a 31-point home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, the Nuggets (32-42) looked to bounce back against the Grizzlies. They almost did, but Memphis held on after Mozgov’s miss.
“We know that I can make 3s,” Mozgov said. “We tried. I just missed it. It wasn’t good.”
Mozgov, who tied a career high with 23 points, hit a free throw to cut the Nuggets’ deficit to 88-86 with 1:35 left. The teams traded buckets before Conley banked in a 3-pointer to make it 93-88 with 36 seconds left.
“Mike Conley hit a big shot,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “I thought we did a good job of executing in getting the shots we wanted down the stretch.”
After Nuggets guard Randy Foye made a layup, Randolph missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining. Denver got the rebound, called a timeout and set up a play for the Mozgov at the 3-point arc. He missed but then dunked the rebound.
“What surprised me is he didn’t kick it back out when he got the dunk,” Randolph said.
Lee was fouled with 0.7 seconds left. He hit the first free throw and missed the second on purpose to end the game.
Nuggets coach Brian Shaw didn’t think Lee’s missed free throw hit the rim and asked the officials to look at the replay. However, he was told by the refs it wasn’t eligible to be reviewed.
Still, he felt they missed the play.
“In a situation where it’s a dead ball and there’s three referees and there’s no live action going on, just looking at the free throw, I don’t understand why that can’t be seen,” he said.
Forward Kenneth Faried had 17 points for the Nuggets, who lost their fourth game in a row.
The Grizzlies were coming off a loss in Portland on Sunday, but they managed to build a 16-point lead in the first half. Lee scored 13 to lead Memphis, but Denver made a charge late in the second quarter to get with 47-45 at the break.
Randolph, who took just four shots in the first half, came alive in the third quarter. He scored 13 points in the period, 11 in the final 4:16 as the Grizzlies turned a two-point lead into a 75-68 advantage heading into the fourth.
“I got rhythm,” Randolph said. “Guys kept coming to me, I got a little rhythm and (started) feeling good.”
Rookie guard Nick Calathes scored five points to keep Memphis ahead by seven, but Faried had a put-back and three free throws to make it 82-80 with 5:58 left. Faried had a chance to tie it, but his turnaround in the lane was short.
NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler missed his fifth consecutive game due to a left groin strain. Chandler, who has battled hip and groin injuries all season, is not officially shut down, but with Denver eliminated from the postseason, he might not play in the remaining eight games. … With Chandler out, Denver had only 10 players available. … The Grizzlies lead the NBA in fewest points allowed (90.4 per game) since C Marc Gasol returned from a sprained left MCL on Jan. 14. … Grizzlies F Zach Randolph leads the team in points (17.4 per game) and rebounds (10.1). He is also the franchise leader in double-doubles.
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