Experience Over Youth as Memphis Beats N.O., 96-89
Despite the Hornets’ best efforts the Memphis veterans out-played the young New Orleans team Friday night, 96-89. Memphis starters Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol combined for 56 points and 24 rebounds.
The Grizzlies’ defense grinded the Hornets, capturing 35 defensive rebounds, with Randolph and Gasol together contributing 17 boards. The Grizzlies snagged nine steals, five alone from Mike Conley, blocked the Bees six times, and scored 19 points off of Hornets turnovers.
Memphis shot 50% from the field, and were 8-17 from three-point range. A barrage of five three-pointers in the second quarter gave Memphis a 12 point lead at halftime.
In a reversal of what’s become their typical third quarter slump, the Hornets outscored Memphis 27-20, and cut the lead to five, 71-66, before the final quarter.
Austin Rivers led New Orleans scoring in the fourth quarter. He confidently attacked the rim, and scored eight of his career-high 15 points. His defining score of the night was with 5:19 left, when he viciously attacked Mike Conley’s ankles with a cross-over drive for a finger roll finish. The score had the crowd roaring and brought the Hornets within one point, 84-83.
New Orleans kept close until Gay buried a three-pointer with only 2:10 left to play. Rivers put up the last score of the night, and the Grizzlies let the clock run down for the win, 96-89.
The Hornets were able to contain Zach Randolph — this is only the third game this season that he has been limited to single digit rebounds. Jason Smith slammed 8 of his 14 points on the Memphis forward.
Head Coach Monty Williams changed the starting lineup tonight, benching Al-Farouq Aminu for Xavier Henry in the SF spot.
“We’re going to make some adjustments,” Williams said before the game. “There are some changes in the rotation. We have to keep tweaking and showing our guys that it is a privilege to play in this league. We want guys that are going to play with passion.”
In the last game Henry scored a season high eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Tonight he contributed 12 points.
The Hornets bench contributed 48 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and six blocks. They played for 118 minutes, and only committed three turnovers.
“No question this is how we need to compete. We feel bad because we came up short, but on a game-to-game basis this is the way our team has to compete to play in these games.” said Hornets guard Roger Mason.
“It’s close to the right effort. We competed, we played hard — if we could add some more execution, that complements the effort,” coach Williams said after the game. “I’m proud of how we competed, but my heart aches because you lost a game you had a chance to win.”
The Hornets head to Miami tonight to prepare for LeBron James and the Heat tomorrow.