MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Early in the season, the Memphis Grizzlies did not have much of a home-court advantage as they actually played better on the road than within the friendly confines of FedExForum.
But down the stretch as they battle with Dallas and Phoenix for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies have found their home court to be a sanctuary.
That was true on Friday night as the Grizzlies defeated the Denver Nuggets 100-92 for their 11th straight home victory.
Memphis (45-31) was coming off a 2-3 road trip that spanned nine days, multiple time zones, and had the team running on fumes.
“We needed that, to be home and play in front of our fans,” said center Marc Gasol, who scored a game-high 24 points. “They did a great job of supporting us.”
Memphis point guard Mike Conley scored 21 and power forward Zach Randolph had his 44th double-double of the season with 20 points and 15 rebounds, plus four assists and three blocks.
Conley and Randolph had combined for a mere 11 points in losing at Minnesota on Wednesday.
“We all know this team goes as far as we take them,” Conley said, referring to Gasol, Randolph and himself.
“Zach and Marc and Mike were all big for us in the second half,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.
Conley scored 19 of his points in the second half and went 10-for-11 from the free-throw line after not getting to the line at all in the first half.
“Coach said we need to get you going, don’t be so passive,” Conley said.
Denver (33-43) had stretched its four-point halftime lead to a 52-43 advantage less than a minute into the third quarter after a jumper from forward Kenneth Faried (17 points and 12 rebounds) and a 3-pointer from guard Aaron Brooks (11 points).
But when forward Quincy Miller bricked a fast-break dunk at the 10:39 mark in the third quarter, it started a momentum change.
“We go up 11 if he makes that dunk,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “We just kind of fizzled from that point on.”
From the missed dunk until 4:15 was left in the game, the Grizzlies outscored Denver 47-24 and stretched the lead to 90-76.
The Nuggets cut the lead to four with 52 seconds to play, but got no closer.
Memphis overcame Denver’s 46-38 edge in rebounds and 19-9 advantage in fast-break points. The Grizzlies scored 17 points off 20 Denver turnovers. Both teams shot below 40 percent.
“It was kind of an ugly game,” Shaw said. “(The Grizzlies) are scrapping. They want to solidify a spot in the playoffs. Obviously, we’re just trying to play hard and get a win.”
Point guard Ty Lawson scored 16 points for Denver, but went down under the basket near game’s end, and after shooting free throws, limped off to the locker room. Shooting guard Randy Foye led Denver with 21 points and nine rebounds.
“Even though we aren’t in the playoffs, we still want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, who scored 13 points. “We have to fight until the last game.”
Memphis small forward Tayshaun Prince scored 12 points in the first half before having to leave the game with a sprained left ankle. His status, and that of Lawson, was not clear after Friday’s game.
The Grizzlies have six games remaining, starting with Sunday night at San Antonio
Right now, the Spurs would be the top seed in the West. If the Grizzlies were to get the No. 8 seed, it would set up a rematch of last season’s conference finals when San Antonio swept the Grizzlies.
“I anticipate the Spurs will come fully loaded,” Joerger said.
NOTES: Nuggets PG Ty Lawson did not start Friday night. He was disciplined by coach Brian Shaw for reportedly being late to a team breakfast meeting. G Aaron Brooks started in Lawson’s place. … Memphis SG Courtney Lee is shooting a career-best 49.1 percent from the floor this season. Before Friday, the Grizzlies were 29-13 since acquiring Lee in a deal with the Boston Celtics. … The Grizzlies finished their five-game road trip 2-3, losing the last game at Minnesota on Monday as PF Kevin Love had a triple-double and Memphis PG Mike Conley and PF Zach Randolph were a combined 4-for-23 from the field with 11 points. … On March 31 at Denver, the Nuggets outscored Memphis 24-19 in the fourth quarter but the Grizzlies held on for a 94-92 victory. … Since March 1, Denver F Kenneth Faried is averaging 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds heading into Friday’s game.
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