Williams returns to lead Grizzlies past Pacers

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Grizzlies 122, Pacers 111

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Memphis guard Jason Williams played his first game in more than two weeks and showed why his team missed his leadership.

Williams, who spent the last eight games nursing his feet after ingrown toenail surgery, scored 33 points and handed out 11 assists Thursday night as the Memphis Grizzlies had a rare offensive outburst in defeating the Indiana Pacers 122-111.

“I’m not really worried about my foot,” Williams said. “I felt good, and I was ready to play.”

Seven Grizzlies finished in double figures as Memphis snapped an eight-game losing streak and set a franchise record for points scored in regulation. The win was the first over Indiana in franchise history after 13 losses.

“We scored 111 points, which was enough to win the basketball game, but we gave up 122,” said Pacers coach Isiah Thomas. “It was just a bad night for us. We ran into a hot team.”

Williams, who recovered slowly from the surgery in late January, shot 13-of-21 from the field, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and controlled the offense down the stretch.

It was obvious the Memphis offense benefitted from the return of Williams, playing only his third game since Jan. 28.

“I think the movement of the basketball was the difference,” Memphis coach Sidney Lowe said. “Certainly Jason was a major factor because he was doing most of the passes. With him in, we play pretty well. I didn’t know how much of a difference it was going to make, but I knew we would certainly play better.”

Pau Gasol added 23 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots for Memphis, including five points in the final two minutes, when Indiana got within four. Rodney Buford scored 20 off the bench, and Grant Long finished with 13.

Jermaine O’Neal led the Pacers with 31 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 13-for-20 from the floor. Jamaal Tinsley added 28 points and nine assists. Ron Artest had 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Grizzlies shot 60 percent from the floor, hitting 51 of 85 shots.

Memphis, which had struggled offensively in recent games, came out firing, taking a 71-59 lead at the half thanks to their 67 percent shooting from the field.

The 71 first-half points was one shy of a franchise record and matched the total Memphis scored in its last home game, a 96-71 loss to Seattle on Sunday.

But Memphis had a poor third quarter, scoring only 15 points. When Indiana’s Austin Croshere hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left in the quarter, it capped a 9-0 run and the Pacers had pulled even at 86.

“When we tied it up in the third quarter, we thought we could get the game under control,” Thomas said. “But they just kept coming. Jason Williams had a great game. He was hitting shots from all over the floor.”

Notes: Reggie Miller, who had 10 points, returned for his first game since serving a two-game suspension for his March 1 altercation with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. …Indiana activated F Ron Mercer from the injured list before the game. It marked Mercer’s first action in a Pacers uniform after he was acquired in the Feb. 19 trade with the Bulls. Mercer didn’t score in seven minutes. … Indiana placed Jamison Brewer on the injured list with a bruised left gastroc muscle. … While Williams was back, the Grizzlies were without G Brevin Knight (strained hip), C Lorenzen Wright (sore knee) and F Tony Massenburg (sore toe).