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League-leading Grizzlies hold off Kings

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Memphis Grizzlies’ lead, which grew as large as 21 points in the second quarter, was down to 79-76 with 6:27 left to play Sunday against the short-handed Sacramento Kings.

Memphis, which entered the game with the NBA’s best record, was in danger of being upset by a Kings team that played without ailing center DeMarcus Cousins and lost his backup, Ryan Hollins, to a second technical foul early in the third quarter.

However, the Grizzlies, as they have so often this season, weathered the onslaught and took control. They went on an 8-2 run, with center Marc Gasol scoring all eight of his team’s points, and rolled to 97-85 victory.

“We did a better job of attacking the paint and especially running back, because they got way too many easy buckets,” said Gasol, who scored 18 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. “Before, they got a lot of offensive rebounds, but I thought offensively we took care of the ball, we took better shots, we played our pace and won the game.”

Forward Zach Randolph scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Grizzlies (15-2) won their fifth consecutive game and handed Sacramento (9-8) its third straight loss.

Sacramento forward Rudy Gay scored 20 points, and forward Reggie Evans came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 20 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Guard Ben McLemore scored 18 points, and guard Darren Collison added 16 for the Kings, who committed 23 turnovers to 13 for Memphis.

“I give a lot of credit to Reggie Evans,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “For him to come in and get 20 and 17, it was a great night for him. He had that energy and that toughness that we needed out there. We got back into the game, but I hate the fact that we get in those kind of holes where we have to constantly fight ourselves out of it.”

Forward Tony Allen had 13 points for Memphis, while guard Courtney Lee scored 11 and guard Mike Conley 10.

Cousins missed his second game in a row due to a virus, leaving the Kings without their leading scorer (23.5 points per game) and rebounder (12.6), as well as their biggest player (6-foot-11, 270 pounds). The Kings missed Cousins’ bulk and strength against a Grizzlies team that features one of the NBA’s best pair of big men, Gasol and Randolph.

Hollins picked up his second technical foul of the game with 10:51 left in the third quarter, ending his night. He recorded no points and one rebound in 17 minutes.

With Hollins out, the 6-foot-8 Evans became a huge inside force for the Kings in the third quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds as Sacramento cut a 58-42 halftime deficit to 74-65. Evans didn’t play a second in the Kings’ previous seven games, but he made a great case for seeing more action.

“It felt good,” Evans said. “I was shocked that my name was called, but you’ve got to be ready to go at any time, and that’s just the main key.”

Gasol gave the Kings credit for battling back but said the Grizzlies deserved some blame.

“You got to give them credit for being relentless, but we played a lot into that,” Gasol said. “We didn’t do a good job of executing. We got a little too out of ourselves and not disciplined enough at the end of the third. We could have done a better job, but we came back and won the game.”

The Grizzlies built a 28-20 first-quarter lead as Randolph scored 13 points. Randolph scored all of the points in Memphis’ 8-0 run in a span of 1:41 late in the first period, turning an 18-18 game into a 26-18 lead.

“He really carried us for stretches in the first half,” Grizzlies coach David Joerger said of Randolph. “We were going to him. He was passing up shots and getting guys looks. He was tremendous.”

The Grizzlies opened the second quarter on a 17-6 run and took a 16-point lead to halftime. Guard Beno Udrih came off the bench to score seven points in the second. Guard Vince Carter, another backup, scored six points in the second quarter, and Gasol added six.

NOTES: Kings coach Michael Malone said he hopes C DeMarcus Cousins (virus) will be ready to return Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors. “He’s improving, but not to the point where he can play,” Malone said. … Grizzlies C Marc Gasol entered Sunday’s game averaging 20.2 points per game, 15th in the NBA and well above his career average of 13.7. “He made a conscious effort, like, ‘I can do more, I can do this with my body and here’s the areas I need to be more aggressive in,’ and he’s done that,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “And we’ve looked for him to do that as well and tried to encourage that, both his teammates and coaches.” … The Kings played 10 of their first 16 games on the road, but they began a stretch of 10 games out of 11 at home.

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

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