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ORLANDO, Fla.(AP) Vince Carter had 26 points and seven rebounds, and the Orlando Magic beat the Memphis Grizzles 107-92 Sunday night after an on-court scuffle.
The scrum between Matt Barnes and Hasheem Thabeet escalated into a near 10-player shoving match. There were six technical fouls by game's end, plenty of pop for an Easter matchup that had little meaning in the standings.
Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson scored 18 points apiece for the Magic, who are all but sure to win their third straight Southeast Division title and the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed. One Orlando win or Atlanta loss will seal the division.
Zach Randolph had 24 points and 18 rebounds, and Rudy Gay added 18 points to help Memphis rally from a 14-point deficit. The Grizzlies have lost four of their last five and are already assured of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The game had lacked fight until it nearly broke out into a brawl.
Barnes was called for an offensive foul for pushing off on Thabeet with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter. Barnes got up to protest the call and bumped the Memphis center, who shoved Barnes, who came back with an even harder push square in the Thabeet's chest.
A shoving match ensued with nearly all 10 players involved near the baseline, including Carter pushing Thabeet and Memphis' O.J. Mayo extending his arm at Barnes. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins came off the bench - a few steps away from the scrum under the basket - to help break it up, though it would seem unlikely the move would merit a suspension with Hollins so close to the action.
Barnes was called for two technicals and ejected, and Carter was assessed a technical. Thabeet and Mayo were each whistled for a technical.
Suddenly, this one had plenty of scrap.
The Grizzlies went ahead by five minutes after the scuffle, and there was plenty of pushing and pounding. No more resting starters, either.
The Magic then went on a 17-6 run that was highlighted by a 3-pointer by Mickael Pietrus, ending the third quarter with a 75-69 lead.
Orlando took a 10-point lead about halfway through the fourth quarter and wouldn't let that cushion slip. The frustration mounted for Memphis.
Gay added to the technical count when he was whistled for throwing the ball to the side of the court in the fourth, delaying the game.
NOTES: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has never been happy that the NBA plays on holidays, especially not this season. Orlando has played games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day this season before hosting Memphis on Easter Sunday. ``If the NBA played in July,'' Van Gundy said, ``we'd play on the Fourth.'' ... Magic SG and former Duke standout J.J. Redick said he was hoping to get to Indianapolis to watch the Blue Devils play Butler in Monday's NCAA title game. Orlando was expected to have Monday off.
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For a while this season, it looked like the Memphis Grizzlies were going to be the Cinderella team of the 2009-10 campaign. But the combination of the Western Conference being filled with playoff-caliber teams and the Grizzlies being inconsistent for stretches has likely resulted in more ping pong balls for Memphis.
The Orlando Magic will get their second and final peek at the Grizzlies when they meet on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET at Amway Arena.
The talent is apparent, but the Grizzlies are still searching for that right chemistry and cohesion before they can be a serious threat in the West. Zach Randolph, who was named to his first All-Star Game this year, is a double-double machine and O.J. Mayo has had a quality sophomore season.
Marc Gasol is one of the prime candidates for Most Improved Player of the Year honors and Hasheem Thabeet is expected to be a first-rate shot blocker once he settles in.
The key inquiry heading into this summer, nonetheless, will be the contract status of Rudy Gay, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game this season. The former UConn standout is a restricted free agent after this season, and it remains a curiosity whether Memphis will look to retain him. There are several media reports that teams such as New York Knicks will make serious offers to Gay if they can’t land other marquee free agents like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
The general consensus around the NBA is that if the Grizzlies can re-sign Gay and add another big body to their front line, they can be the “team of the future” in the Western Conference.
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Apr. 4 vs. Memphis: Orlando is 15-12 all-time vs. Memphis (9-4 at home, 2-7 at Memphis, 4-1 at Vancouver) during regular season action, including 0-1 this season (see recap below)…The teams split 1-1 last season…The two teams have split the last six meetings, but the Magic have lost 10 of the last 15 meetings overall…Prior to that, the Magic had recorded nine straight victories against the Grizzles…Jason Williams played four seasons for the Grizzlies from 2001-05…For last season’s stats and Magic career numbers vs. Memphis, see p. 262 of the media guide…Jan. 25 @ Memphis – Grizzlies 99, Magic 94: Zach Randolph tallied 23 points and 19 rebounds, as Memphis overcame an early 16-point deficit and defeated Orlando, 99-94, at FedEx Forum. The loss snapped the Magic’s brief three-game winning streak. All five starters for the Grizzlies scored in double figures. O.J. Mayo netted 20 points, while Marc Gasol recorded 19 points, eight boards, four steals and three blocks. Dwight Howard paced the Magic with 27 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. The Magic led 44-28 early in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies answered with a 24-6 run and led 52-50 at halftime. Orlando actually led 84-77 with 10:14 left in the contest, but Memphis responded again, this time with an 8-0 run. They took the lead for good after a reverse layup by Rudy Gay with 58.9 seconds remaining. The Magic were 4-of-18 from the floor during the fourth quarter.
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. GRIZZLIES: 37 pts., Anfernee Hardaway (@ Orlando, 11-22-95)
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. MAGIC: 32 pts., Rudy Gay (@ Orlando, 12-15-07)
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