MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Zach Randolph had 27 points and 15 rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies clinched the Western Conference's final playoff spot Friday night with a 101-96 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Randolph's two free throws with 4.8 seconds left sealed the victory for the Grizzlies, who head to the postseason for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The victory eliminated Houston from the playoff chase.
Marc Gasol added 18 points for Memphis, Tony Allen scored 13, and Mike Conley finished with 12 points and eight assists as Memphis won for the fifth time in six games.
Marcus Thornton led the Kings with 18 points, seven of them coming in the final 2:30 to keep the Grizzlies from celebrating too early. Samuel Dalembert had 17 points and 16 rebounds. Tyreke Evans had 16 points, and Jason Thompson had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Memphis weathered a fourth-quarter rally that pulled the Kings to 97-96 with 39 seconds left. But Sacramento could never overtake the Grizzlies.
Memphis came out running as if it wanted to claim the playoff spot early, but it didn't take long for the game to settle into another low-scoring affair, where Memphis let a non-playoff team hang close.
The Grizzlies were having trouble scoring, and shooting around 40 percent through much of the half. While the Kings shot slightly better, they committed 10 turnovers.
Gasol had 13 points at the break to help Memphis carry a 46-43 lead at halftime, but it was not pretty. The Grizzlies shot 38 percent, while the Kings were at 42 percent, and both teams missed all five of their 3-point attempts.
Evans had 10 points to lead the Kings.
Francisco Garcia nailed the first 3-pointer of the game in the opening minutes of the third quarter, then followed with another. That helped Sacramento retake the lead.
Memphis finally turned up the defense, got out running and started getting the ball into Randolph. Allen got a dunk off a Conley steal, and Randolph stole the ball, leading to his own layup for Memphis' biggest lead at that point, 69-57, with 4:11 left in the third.
Memphis carried a 77-67 lead into the fourth, led by Randolph's 10 points in the third.
The Grizzlies held a 13-point lead in the third before losing to the Clippers 82-81 on Tuesday. This time, Memphis didn't let its opponent get off to a quick start in the final frame, but the Kings, with an offensive burst from Dalmebert and help from Donte Greene, wouldn't allow Memphis to get comfortable.
Greene's drive with just over 5 minutes left cut the Memphis lead to 92-85. Dalembert's free throws 2 minutes later pulled the Kings within five.
Thornton connected on a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to cap an 8-0 run that cut the lead to 92-90. He would get the Kings even closer with 39 seconds left on a tip-in to cut it to 97-96.
Memphis could have made the ending a lot easier but couldn't hit its free throws in the final 50 seconds, connecting on three of six attempts.
With the Memphis crowd sensing the end of five years of frustration, they were on their feet as Memphis held a 99-96 lead with 10.3 seconds left and Sacramento inbounding the ball.
Thornton's 3-point attempt missed badly, and Randolph was fouled, sinking the final two free throws with 4.8 seconds left.
NOTES: Memphis F Shane Battier is the only player who was with the team when the Grizzlies were last in the playoffs five years ago, and he left before the next season in a trade with Houston. He returned this year in another trade with the Rockets. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was an assistant on the 2005-06 team. ... Kings G Evans, who played one season at the University of Memphis, was given a nice ovation in the pre-game introductions. DeMarcus Cousin, who ended up at Kentucky with former Tiger coach John Calipari, got booed. ... The start of the second quarter was delayed several minutes after the shot clock above one of the baskets was not illuminated. A backup was brought out and put on the floor in the corner.