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Grizzlies win over Warriors

Party like it’s 2006, Memphis.

For the first time in five years, the Memphis Grizzlies are officially a winning team.

The Grizzlies earned win No. 42 of the season in a fittingly familiar fashion, doing just about everything that worked 41 times prior to Wednesday night in defeating the Golden State Warriors 110-91.

There was Zach Randolph outmuscling the opposition down-low; there was Tony Allen sparking the team—and the crowd—with his signature mixture of hustle and intensity; there were Mike Conley and Darrell Arthur continuing to mature right before the eyes of the FedExForum faithful; and there were the Memphis Grizzlies, walking off the court having guaranteed themselves a winning season.

Thanks to a 76ers win over the Rockets Wednesday, the Grizzlies now own a three-game cushion on the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs despite starting the season at 8-14. As the cliché goes, it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish—and Wednesday’s game followed that same trajectory.

“We definitely were a little lethargic when we came out,” said Randolph, who tallied 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. “But we picked it up towards the end, found our energy and got this game.”

Memphis finished the contest with a 62-33 run to cruise to its 27th home win, but it wasn’t smooth sailing for much of the first half.

Neither team came out of the gates with much venom as they combined for a putrid 0-11 start from the field before Marc Gasol finally broke the seal with 9:38 to play in the first quarter. The Grizzlies held a lead through most of the first, but were outscored by 10 in the second frame (29-19) and entered the locker room trailing 53-48 at the half.

A quick pep-talk from Head Coach Lionel Hollins was all it took to get the Grizzlies back on track.

“We came out a little sluggish,” said Allen. “It wasn’t the best first half we’ve had all year, but we stuck with it and we responded to coach’s scolding at halftime. He said we need to get back to doing what we do and that’s playing hard at both ends. We were able to pull it out simply because we locked in at the defensive end and played at our pace.

“I’m going to take blame for that, being our energizer early.”

If Allen is quick to take the fall for the lack of energy in the first half, he ought to rush to take credit for a second half that featured consecutive quarters in which Memphis outscored Golden State 31-19. Along with multiple crowd-pleasing gestures, Allen tallied a game-high 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting, gathering 10 points and three steals in the third quarter alone.

Once Allen flipped the switch in the third quarter, the rest of the team followed suit. Randolph helped the Grizzlies outscored the Warriors 20-6 in the paint in the third quarter and 76-50 for the game, while several Grizzlies had a hand in the 11-0 third quarter advantage in fast break points.

By turning five Warriors turnovers into nine points in the game-changing third frame, the Grizzlies were able to regain their form.

“We started getting some steals,” said Hollins. “I think we had two or three steals in-a-row, and we scored. Then the energy picked up.”

Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

And sure, it helps to shoot a season-high .565 from the field, as Memphis did. The Warriors, on the other hand, were held to .400 in the second half, and sharpshooter Stephen Curry went just 2-of-14 on the night with six turnovers.

“We closed out the second quarter really well and then went flat,” said Warriors Head Coach Keith Smart. “We turned the ball over and took a lot of quick shots. That allowed the Grizzlies to cut in the lead and by that time the crowd was into it.”

Up seven with 9:36 to play, the Grizzlies tore the game open with a 15-3 run that gave them a 100-81 lead with just over five minutes remaining.

Conley once again was a big contributor in the winning cause, scoring 20 points with seven assists and no turnovers as the Grizzlies posted an astronomical 4:1 (28:7) team assist-to-turnover ratio. Arthur turned in another solid performance off the bench, totaling 17 points and seven rebounds.

Dorell Wright and Monta Ellis led the Warriors with 16 apiece.

The Grizzlies have little time to enjoy clinching their fourth winning season in franchise history, as they’ll travel to New Orleans for a game with the current seventh-seeded Hornets. Rest assured, they’ll try to tap into their energy source a little earlier on Friday.

“We just have to be focused as a unit beforehand,” said Allen. “Considering how tight it is in the playoff race, we have to be ready from the jump.”