Published November 20, 2014
When the Memphis Grizzlies lost Zach Randolph to a torn ligament on Jan. 1, the question then was whether they could remain a playoff-caliber team in his absence.
If the first half of the season is any indication, it looks as if Memphis plans on being in the thick of the playoff race when Randolph returns.
Marc Gasol had 15 points and 14 rebounds, Rudy Gay scored 14 points and the Grizzlies beat the Philadelphia 76ers 89-76 on Tuesday night to remain in seventh place in the Western Conference.
"I think a lot of us don't understand how well we've done for ourselves without having Zach there," point guard Mike Conley said. "He's a big part of our team going forward and last season in the playoffs. With his absence, still being in the hunt and in the playoffs like we are is amazing."
Memphis has gone 18-12 in Randolph's absence and won for the fifth time in its last six games.
O.J. Mayo added 13 points and Marreese Speights had 12 to help the Grizzlies (19-15) move a season high-tying four games above .500.
Gasol, who's headed to this weekend's All-Star Game in Orlando, finished three assists shy of a triple double.
"Marc was solid," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "He was around the basket. He was rebounding. He was passing the ball. He does what Marc does. He's a little tired. I told him to just go to the All-Star game and drink a couple of mojitos and enjoy himself. You know, don't play.
"He said he's going to take a couple charges though. You know Marc. He's going to go out there and compete and play because that's who he is."
Jrue Holiday scored 22 points — none in the fourth — for the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers, who shot just 37 percent while losing their fourth straight and sixth in their last eight. Rookie Lavoy Allen had 14 points for Philadelphia, and Andre Iguodala added 11 on 5-of-14 shooting.
"We just haven't been good offensively for a week or two now. We've been in a little funk offensively," Iguodala said.
Philadelphia trailed by 20 after the first quarter before rallying to pull within three late in the second, and was down 47-42 at halftime.
Holiday, who finished 9 for 18 from the field, scored nine of Philadelphia's first 13 points of the third quarter to keep the Sixers close. His 3-pointer with 3:30 left made it 61-55.
Reserve guard Louis Williams hit another 3-pointer with 46.2 left in the third to pull Philadelphia to 64-60, but Memphis pushed its lead back to nine on back-to-back buckets by reserves Quincy Pondexter and Hamed Haddadi.
"It's simple to me," Williams said. "We're just not competing at our highest level right now, and we're getting beat."
The Grizzlies allowed Philadelphia to get no closer than four points in the fourth. Tony Allen made a pair of key defensive plays down the stretch for the Grizzlies, forcing an airball by Iguodala with Memphis leading by five, and later getting a steal on a Sixers fast break.
Gay then put the game out of reach with a 3-pointer with 2:10 left, helping Memphis improve to 6-3 this season on the second game of back-to-backs. The Grizzlies lost 97-93 at Houston on Monday.
"Losing Zach was big we all know. We turned into a makeshift team again. We lost Rudy Gay (to a shoulder injury) last year," Allen said. "All we can do is try to hold down the fort until (Randolph) gets back. From what I hear, he's having a great recovery."
Playing a Sixers team that came into the game ranked first in the NBA in scoring defense, Memphis made seven of its first nine shots in building a 15-7 first-quarter lead. A Philadelphia timeout didn't slow the Grizzlies, who scored the next 12 points — including two 3-pointers by Mayo — to take a 27-7 lead.
Gasol was at the center of the run, getting four points, five assists and four rebounds in the first quarter.
Philadelphia trailed 30-10 after the first after shooting 4 of 20 from the field in the period. The 76ers' 10 points were the fewest Memphis has allowed in any quarter this season.
"Horrible start," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole and fought out, but made mistakes at the wrong time. Once again, we hold a team to 40-percent shooting, and we are struggling mightily to score.
The Sixers finally got into an offensive rhythm in the second quarter, outscoring Memphis 9-2 over the first 3 minutes.
Holiday then made his first of three 3s in the period with 5:13 left to cut Philadelphia's deficit to 10. He scored 13 straight points for the 7ters to pull them to 43-40 late in the quarter.
After an abysmal first quarter, the Sixers connected on 13 of their first 17 shots in the second and trailed by five at halftime.
NOTES: 76ers F Elton Brand (right thumb sprain) was a game-time scratch. ... Former world champion boxer James "Lights Out" Toney was among the 14,258 in attendance. ... At halftime, Memphis' mascot, Grizz, was introduced to the crowd as the team's second All-Star. Memphis' mascot has been selected to join Gasol at this weekend's All-Star festivities in Orlando.