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Grizzlies clinch playoff spot with win

It’s official: the Memphis Grizzlies are playoff-bound.

Following 101-96 win over the Sacramento Kings that wasn’t necessarily easy or pretty—not unlike the turbulent 2010-11 season itself—the Grizzlies will be playing postseason basketball for the first time since 2005-06.

“The journey is always the sweetest part of any achievement,” said a reflective Head Coach Lionel Hollins after the game. “You have to go through so much. There is so much adversity. There are so many trials and tests that you have to overcome in order to get here.”

The tests kept coming Friday night against a team long-since knocked out of playoff contention but playing hard nonetheless. The Kings threw all kinds of pop-quizzes at the Grizzlies in the closing moments of the contest, even after the Grizzlies mounted a 12-point advantage (90-78) with seven minutes remaining and appeared poised to coast into the playoffs.

A 19-7 Sacramento run had the visitors all the way back to within one-point, 97-96, with just 39.0 seconds to play, but Memphis was able to put the game on ice and take the champagne off of it with five free throws to close out the scoring down the stretch.

“I’m really, really happy for our bunch of guys who have put in a lot of effort this year to get to this point and to realize their goals,” said Hollins. “It is rewarding. It was definitely a bump-and-grind game.”

The Grizzlies bumped and grinded their way to 62 points in the paint, led by another dominant performance from Zach Randolph, who finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Marc Gasol’s presence in the paint netted 18 points, keeping the Grizzlies afloat with 13 in the first half while Z-Bo found his rhythm and went for 18 in the second.

“We’ve worked hard,” said Randolph. “Guys believe in each other and trust each other. It’s been a long journey, and the journey is just beginning for us. We’ve got a great group of young guys with a lot of talent who understand what we’re playing for and understand the importance of this league.”

After playing a somewhat nervous first half in which little seemed to go as planned (even the shot clock didn’t operate properly), the Grizzlies rebounded in the third quarter, shooting .684 (13-of-19 FG) from the field after hitting just .381 of their shots in the first half to outscore the Kings 31-24 in the frame.

Memphis trailed just once in the second half, but overcame the brief 53-52 deficit by stringing together a 17-4 run to take a 12-point lead. The Grizzlies turned the ball over just nine times in the game while forcing 17 Kings turnovers, leading to 19 Grizzlies points.

Samuel Dalembert led the Kings with 17 points and 16 rebounds, while Jason Thompson came off the bench to add 15 points and 12 boards in the losing effort.

But tonight was all about the Grizzlies. Tonight was about overcoming obstacles—both in the last 48 minutes and the last 79 games. And tonight was about taking care of business in front of a FedExForum crowd of 16,517 rowdy Grizzlies fans. And Lionel Hollins and the Grizzlies did just that.

“I told them, ‘It’s never going to be easy, but it’s going to be rewarding if you stick with it. Let’s find a way.’ We found a way tonight.”


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