Griz­zlies earn re­venge on Clip­pers

The Commercial Appeal - - Business - David Cobb Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Less than two weeks af­ter the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers edged Mem­phis in over­time and ended the Griz­zlies' un­likely joyride to the top of the West­ern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, the Griz­zlies re­paid the fa­vor in vin­tage grit-and-grind fash­ion.

Mem­phis found a de­fen­sive groove once again and sti­fled the Clip­pers on Wed­nes­day night at FedExFo­rum, knock­ing the vis­i­tors out of a tie for first place with a 96-86 vic­tory.

The Clip­pers (16-8) en­tered as win­ners of 10 of their last 12 and left with their low­est point to­tal of the sea­son. The Griz­zlies (14-9) held West­ern Con­fer­ence Player of the Month To­bias Harris to seven points on 2-of-13 shoot­ing.

Here are some things to know from the game:

Still a ri­valry?

Af­ter­ward, the Griz­zlies of­fered grins and re­spect­ful com­ments in re­sponse to whether the Griz­zlies-Clip­pers se­ries is a ri­valry like it was dur­ing the hey­day of the grit-and-grind era, when the two squared off in some mem­o­rable play­off meet­ings.

"I know there’s a his­tory be­tween the or­ga­ni­za­tions," Griz­zlies coach J.B. Bick­er­staff said. "So many of the faces have changed. I don’t know if you’d con­sider it a ri­valry, but each team wants to beat each other badly."

Clip­pers make their run

A Mike Con­ley run­ning 3-pointer from 33 feet at the first-half buzzer put the Griz­zlies ahead 51-42. Then, the Clip­pers made their run. Los An­ge­les started the third quar­ter on an 11-0 streak. Bick­er­staff called a time­out at the 9:31 mark af­ter a 51-42 lead evap­o­rated in a sea of turnovers and fouls.

It was rem­i­nis­cent of the third quar­ter when the teams met on Nov. 23. In that game, the Clip­pers outscored the Griz­zlies 31-18 in the third quar­ter and erased an eight-point half­time deficit on the way to a 112-107 win at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

Boban Mar­janovic shines

The Clip­pers' 7-foot-3 big man scored a sea­son-high 19 points off the bench, hit­ting 11-of-12 free throws while prov­ing hard to de­fend in the pick-and-roll of­fense.

Mar­janovic did his dam­age in only 13 min­utes. His strong out­ing con­trasted with Marc Ga­sol's worst shoot­ing night of the sea­son. The Griz­zlies' star went 1for-13 from the field.

Var­ied con­tri­bu­tions

Ga­sol's off night mag­ni­fied the im­por­tance of the var­ied con­tri­bu­tions the Griz­zlies re­ceived from around the roster. All ten Griz­zlies who played scored. JaMy­chal Green racked up 19 points and 11 re­bounds off the bench.

"Ev­ery­body stepped up tonight," Green said. "We got the game won play­ing de­fense and mov­ing the ball as a team."

Mike Con­ley led the Griz­zlies with 22 points. He and Ga­sol played just 34 and 33 min­utes af­ter their minute to­tals crept up to­wards 40 at times over the last cou­ple of weeks. It was Ga­sol's low­est-minute to­tal in a month.

"We want those guys as fresh as we pos­si­bly can, so 34 or 35 min­utes for those two is good," Bick­er­staff said. "Same thing with Gar­rett (Tem­ple). I had been push­ing him, so it's good to be able to pull those guys back some, and we have the depth to do it."

One day af­ter of­fi­cially join­ing the Griz­zlies, vet­eran cen­ter Joakim Noah played in an NBA game for the first time since Jan­uary. The 33-year-old for­mer NBA De­fen­sive Player of the Year started the sec­ond quar­ter on the court.

Noah walked off with his hands on his hips and sweat drip­ping down his face to a se­ries of high-fives and back pats from the Griz­zlies bench af­ter five min­utes and 20 sec­onds of ac­tion.

He posted no points or re­bounds in his first spurt on the floor. But the Griz­zlies ex­panded their lead from 13 to 16 with him in the game.

Noah re-en­tered with 5:32 left in the third quar­ter and played briefly with Ga­sol, who is also a for­mer De­fen­sive Player of the Year.

Noah played the rest of the quar­ter and the begin­ning of the fourth, fin­ish­ing with four points in 13 min­utes. His first bucket came on a tip-in with 1.1 sec­onds in the third quar­ter and tied the game at 69.

“It was the best, man," Noah said. "I’ve been wait­ing for this for a long time. There were a lot of nights when I wasn’t sure if I was go­ing to get the op­por­tu­nity to come back and play. I stayed with it and I’m re­ally happy. I’m re­ally happy.”

His sec­ond score was a jump shot from the right wing that put the Griz­zlies ahead 71-69 early in the fourth quar­ter.

Noah re­ceived a loud ova­tion from the crowd of 14,144 when he checked out with 9:56 left.

Up next

The Griz­zlies play at the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans (13-13) on Fri­day (7 p.m. Fox Sports South­east).

Reach Griz­zlies beat writer David Cobb at [email protected]­mer­cialap­peal.com or on Twit­ter @DavidWCobb.

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