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Grizz beat Hornets, move into tie for 7th

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

If there was any question as to whether the Memphis Grizzlies would continue to try and win their last three games or rest their starters after clinching a postseason berth on Friday, it was answered Sunday evening.

They’d simply do both.

The Grizzlies blew out the New Orleans Hornets 111-89 in a game dripping with playoff-seeding implications and were able to roll with their reserves for much of the second half. By winning their regular season finale, the Grizzlies pulled even with the Hornets at 2-2 in the series and 46-34 on the year, though New Orleans still holds a tiebreaker over Memphis for the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs by virtue of a better record in the division.

“The bench came in the first time around and gave us huge energy,” said Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins after Memphis earned its 30th and final regular season win at FedExForum. “When we started with them in the second half, they really started playing. There was no need to put the starters back in.

“I had said that we were going to play regularly and play it out. We got so far ahead that I didn’t have to play the regulars anymore.”

The Grizzlies took just a four-point lead into halftime, but tore the game open with a 30-19 advantage in the third quarter. No starters logged any action in the fourth and final frame for Memphis, allowing O.J. Mayo to lead the Grizz with a game-high tying 18 points and Greivis Vasquez to notch a career-best 13 points to go with five helpers. Hamed Haddadi also took advantage of the extra playing time, recording nine points and seven rebounds as the Grizzlies bench went off for 61 points

Memphis led by as many as 26 points after a 28-10 run turned a 69-61 third quarter lead (3:46 remaining) into a 97-71 advantage just seven-and-a-half minutes later, with 8:12 left in the game.

“They came up from the jump and knocked down shots,” said Hornets guard Jarrett Jack. “I think that translated into energy on the defensive end. We compounded that by taking some tough shots and turning the ball over.

“We weren’t able to make timely plays, and they were able to extend the lead.”

The Grizzlies’ 22-point victory, their largest in franchise history over the Hornets, was aided by a .603 shooting night (41-of-68) that included hitting on 23-of-35 (.657) in the first half. While Memphis shot above 60 percent for just the sixth time in franchise history, Hornets star point guard Chris Paul did something he’s never done in his NBA career—went an entire game without scoring.

“I just couldn’t make anything,” admitted Paul, who was 0-of-6 from the field and missed a pair of free throws. “There’s a first time for everything.”

The All-Star point guard still managed to dish out a game-best 10 assists, including seven in a first quarter that saw New Orleans amass an early eight-point lead. Sixteen of Marco Belinelli’s team-best 18 points also came in the opening frame, thanks to four open looks from long range. Belinelli took just three shots in the remaining three quarters after a 6-of-9 start. The Grizzlies clawed back to break even at 30 apiece after 12 minutes.

Memphis concluded its regular season home slate in a fitting fashion, doubling up the Hornets in the paint 56-28. The best part of it all for the Grizzlies is knowing that they’ll have at least two more games in front of the FedExForum faithful to replicate the feat.

“It is great to see the fans come out and great to see them support us,” said Grizz forward Darrell Arthur, who electrified the crowd of 17, 041 with a couple of highlight-reel dunks. “It’s no different than the sixth man; we need to have them come out.”

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley did an even better job of summing up the feeling of brining playoff basketball back to Memphis.

“I am just happy to be a part of it and be a part of this city.”