NEW ORLEANS — Facing the Memphis Grizzlies’ formidable frontcourt duo of Zach Randolf and Marc Gasol, the New Orleans Hornets’ Robin Lopez and Anthony Davis teamed together for a huge game Friday at New Orleans Arena.
Lopez had 23 points and 10 rebounds and four blocks and Davis 18 points and 15 rebounds as the Hornets turned back the Grizzlies 90-83, New Orleans’ second consecutive victory over a team in playoff position.
The Grizzlies (46-22), in second place in the Southwest Division, had won its past two games and 16 of its past 19.
Davis and Lopez led an impressive rebounding performance by the Hornets (24-46) that was the key to the victory, as they spanked the Grizzlies on the boards 49-33, their second consecutive big output on the glass.
The Hornets had 16 offensive rebounds, with Lopez getting six and Davis five, scored 22 second-chance points and 48 points in the lane.
“Each of the games against the Grizzlies, we try to make a conscious effort to be physical with them because that’s their forte,” said Lopez, who scored 10 points in a key third-quarter stretch. “I think that’s something we need to bring every game.”
Randolph, the Grizzlies’ power forward, had 14 points and nine rebounds matched against Davis, and Gasol had 16 points and six rebounds.
“Both Davis and Lopez worked hard all night,” said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. “You just have to tip your hat to them.”
The Hornets as a team came up big, too, showing poise and grit at the end when in many previous games they would have found a way to lose. And, point guard Greivis Vasquez made a likely game-saving shot.
With the Hornets clinging to a two-point lead and 1:50 left in the game, Vasquez sank a 3-pointer off a pass from Gordon, and Lopez put back a miss by Eric Gordon to push the lead to 88-81 with 1:11 left, and the Hornet hung on the rest of the way.
Lopez credited Davis for his clinching rebound.
“That was all Anthony, honestly,” Lopez said. “He crashed the boards and tipped the ball and attracted the attention of Zach and Marc, and I was just there to put the ball in.”
The Hornets came back from a 14-point first quarter with a strong, 34-point second quarter that gave them a 48-43 halftime lead. Then came the third, in which they turned the table on Memphis, holding it to 15 points.
Three minutes into the fourth, New Orleans picked up on its momentum from the third with a 9-2 burst in taking a 76-60 lead, its largest of the game.
Backup point guard Brian Roberts got it started with a floater, a drive and a pass to Lou Amundson low for score. Anderson capped it with a 3-pointer.
But Memphis chipped away, and Gasol drove for a layup that brought the Grizzlies to 78-68.
From there, quick Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who had 20 points but just four assists, sank a 3. He then induced Lopez into a foul while shooting and sank two free throws, and was fouled by Vasquez and hit two more. When he exploited a mixup by Lopez and Roberts on a pick and roll and hit a 3, it was 83-78 with 3:05 showing.
Conley hit another one 30 seconds later to cut it to 83-81, setting up the ending.
The Hornets scored the first two baskets of the third quarter to take a 52-43 lead, the nine points being their largest lead. The Grizzlies charged back behind posts and tip-ins by Randolph and their fast break to close to 54-53 with 6:32 showing.
But that’s when the Lopez show began. Lopez scored 10 points during the next 3½ minutes — on two mid-range jump shots, a post-up, a put-back and two free throws — and also blocked two shots. His second jumper gave New Orleans a 64-56 lead at 2:57 and prompted a Memphis timeout.
“The offense had a lot of movement, and my teammates just got the ball to me,” Lopez said.
Anderson then sank a 3-pointer pushing the lead to 11. When Conley made two free throws with 49.3 seconds left, cutting it 67-58, it was the Grizzlies’ first points since Prince made a free throw at 5:04.
Trailing all of the first quarter and nearly all of the second, the Hornets forged the halftime lead by taking care better care of the ball, which enabled it to better force the issue offensively and turn up the defense due to its made shots. After not making a free throw in the first quarter, they went 9-of-9 in the second. And, they gobbled up the boards, outrebounding the big Grizzlies 11-5 in the quarter and 22-12 in the half.
The Hornets finished with 17 turnovers. However, they had seven in falling behind in the first quarter, but just three in the second when they took control.
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