The Grizzlies picked up a good win last night — the second night of a back-to-back set, on the road, against a much-improved Minnesota Timberwolves team that has already beaten the Spurs and Mavericks and lost close games to the Thunder and Heat.
Fatigue was apparent, especially from Marc Gasol, who was leaving a lot of shots short, but the team was able to play staunch enough defense and make enough plays offensively to pull it out. (Other than O.J. Mayo, the team really struggled from the perimeter, with Conley, Gasol, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, and Jeremy Pargo a combined 0-17 on long two-point jumpers.)
The Grizzlies closed the game with a lineup of Conley-Mayo-Tony Allen-Gay-Gasol and, without Zach Randolph, I suspect that's going to be the team's best lineup on most nights. This group played the final eight minutes, starting with the team down 63-66 and went on a 13-0 run in the middle of this stretch, giving the Grizzlies a 76-68 lead with three minutes to play and control of the game, then hitting 8-8 free throws in final 22 seconds to maintain that control.
Tony Allen was the leading scorer, registering 20 points on a perfect 8-8 from the floor and 4-4 from the free throw line, a marked contrast to his spate of layup misfires the night before. And Allen generally stayed within his limitations, with five of his eight field goals assisted shots at the rim and only one coming from beyond 10 feet.
Rudy Gay (19 points on 7-17 shooting) continued to struggle with his outside shot, hitting only 2-10 from beyond 10 feet (but 1-3 from three), and had some lax moments defensively despite his three steals. But, on the positive, Gay continues to play big (8 rebounds and a block) and made some crucial offensive plays, with two tip-ins, a power drive, and a short jumper at the :27 mark that pushed the lead to four and forced the Wolves into fouling
The Grizzlies are now 2-0 without Randolph, and while that won't hold up, their play the past two night provides encouragement that the team may be able to stay in the playoff race in his absence. They complete their road trip at Utah tomorrow night and against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. A split would be a welcome outcome.