All three previous New Orleans-Memphis games this season were grudge matches between divisional foes, decided either on the final possession of regulation or in overtime. This time, with the Hornets out of the playoff race and the Grizzlies on the verge of being eliminated, the fourth matchup bore no resemblance to those prior nail-biters.
Memphis (39-36) relied on quality performances from a majority of its roster, building a sizeable second-half lead and keeping New Orleans (35-42) at arms length in the fourth quarter. Despite a quiet game from All-Star power forward Zach Randolph and playing without center Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies earned a split of the season series with the Hornets.
The 42nd loss means New Orleans is assured of finishing the season below .500 for the first time since 2006-07. The Hornets will complete the regular season with a losing record for just the eighth time in the franchises 22-year history (and four of those occurred during the first four years of the expansion Charlotte Hornets). The club has finished in last place in its division only once since the infant stages of the franchise, but it will be difficult to avoid the basement this time without winning all of the remaining five games and receiving help.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Memphis Grizzlies)
HORNETS COACH JEFF BOWER
On how Memphis won the game:
In the first half, they scored a lot of fast break points and second chance points. Those few areas really gave them half of their total points. We thought we could get that under control. At halftime, we talked about that and getting those under control. We did to a certain extent, but we just couldnt make up the difference, especially after that second quarter.
On the Hornets offense:
I thought we did a good job defensively, getting them under control. We were coming up with the ball and taking possessions going the other way. The shot was late on the rim. It was the type of shot that you want, but we just couldnt score the ball.
On the Grizzlies play with Marc Gasol injured and without Zach Randolph in the first quarter:
They filled the gap pretty easily and quickly. O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay are pretty good back-up plans, but I thought our second half was a lot better.
HORNETS GUARD MARCUS THORNTON (19 points, 5 rebounds)
On what he has learned this year:
You have to go out and play every game. Teams are not going to back down. Every team is going to go at you. Teams are always going to play hard. You have to go out and match their intensity.
On trying to take the lead:
Every time we got it down to single digits, they got that timely basket that they needed. I give credit to them. They made the shots when they needed to.
HORNETS GUARD CHRIS PAUL (16 points, 8 assists)
On eventually becoming a playoff team:
I think so. We were on a roll before I got injured. Like with every team, when someone goes down, it is tough. Right now, we are just focusing on getting better for next year.
On Darren Collison:
I was very impressed, but I expected nothing less from him. You can see he is a hard worker. He comes ready to practice every day. I was very happy to see him play so well.
On where the game got away:
We fell back a little in the third quarter, but I think it really got away from us in the second quarter. Thats when they really opened the game up. We had a lot of careless turnovers, and they became transition points for them.