MINNEAPOLIS — It was a prizefight kind of game. Contact, pushing, shoving, elbows. So tough that Wolves forward Kevin Love struggled to even run during the final two quarters after turning his right ankle and physical enough that injured Memphis point guard Mike Conley watched the final six minutes from the bench.
Memphis was the last team standing.
Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Memphis to a 94-90 victory over a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had seized momentum in the third quarter.
Randolph scored on three consecutive possessions, the second time a 6-footer with 2:06 left that put the Grizzlies up for good on their way to their fifth straight win and their 10th in 11 games.
This after Love, hobbled, scored 18 of his 28 points in the third quarter. The Timberwolves (23-23) turned a 13-point deficit into a 67-66 lead on Love’s jumper in the closing seconds of the quarter — only to have Randolph return the favor.
“They made a run,” Randolph said. “They made a hell of a run. But we just withstood it, then went ahead and made plays.”
For Memphis (25-20), it truly was a team effort, with shooting guards Courtney Lee (16 points), Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince (11 points) taking turns at the point with Conley (12 points) out with a turned ankle of his own.
Up one entering the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves — who also got 14 points from guard Kevin Martin and 12 each off the bench from guard J.J. Barea and forward Dante Cunningham — still led 83-80 after Love scored on a layup with 5:13 left. After that, it was all Grizzlies, who scored 11 of the next 13 points, with Randolph delivering six and Prince hitting a dagger 3-pointer from the corner that made it 91-85 with 59.6 seconds left.
“Just two different halves,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said of his team, which committed 12 turnovers while falling behind by 13 points at halftime. “For whatever reason, everyone was trying to make the play themselves. We didn’t have near the movement we needed to have until the second half.”
That is when the Timberwolves made it a game, with Love leading the way, scoring 10 straight Minnesota points during one stretch.
It appeared the Timberwolves had seized the momentum, and they brought it with them into the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 12 twice before the Grizzlies reasserted themselves, mainly in the form of Randolph, who led a powerful inside attack that accounted for 56 points in the paint.
“They were more in an attack mode in the third quarter and the shots started to go down for them,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “I was proud of our guys that they took that punch, ’cause it was a pretty healthy punch.”
And punched back, with Randolph leading the way.
“He’s the man,” Joerger said. “He’s a go-to player. He’s a very proud man and he’s an extremely competitive man. He got down there and he got it done.”
Love said, “(Randolph) has one of the best touches in the league. He’s left-handed, which makes him a little unorthodox. But he’s been doing this his whole career. I think he saw me limping around out there and so they just threw the ball into him and let him go.”
So the Grizzlies remain the hot team. The Timberwolves entered the game having won two straight and five of six. Now they have to wonder if Love’s ankle will allow him to play Saturday night in Atlanta.
NOTES: It was a homecoming for Memphis coach Dave Joerger. Joerger grew up in Staples, Minn., not far from Minneapolis. It took him awhile to get back. A veteran of pro basketball’s minor leagues, Joerger got to the NBA as a Memphis assistant in 2007. Last summer, he was promoted to head coach after the Grizzlies and Lionel Hollins parted ways. “It’s certainly a dream come true to be able to coach here,” Joerger said. “I remember coming to games here, just the biggest deal in the world.” Joerger had between 40 and 50 family and friends in attendance, including his old high school coach. … Timberwolves F Kevin Love (27) and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (16) are first and fifth, respectively, in the league in games with 20 points and 10 rebounds. … It may be difficult with center Nikola Pekovic out with an injury, but Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said he has to make sure not to play Love too many minutes. Love played a season-high 43:26 on Wednesday. … Memphis G/F Tony Allen, who missed his 13th game with a wrist injury, took part in a shootaround and could return in a game or two.
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