By Mike Cook/The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The Memphis Grizzlies broke out of their road slump the only way they know how: by locking down on defense.
Marc Gasol scored 21 points and the Grizzlies pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-86 on Saturday night.
Mike Conley scored 19, Zach Randolph 14 and Darrell Arthur had 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for the Grizzlies, who ended a five-game road losing streak with their 11th straight victory over Minnesota.
“It’s huge,” Conley said. “We’ve lost some games we probably could have won. To beat a team that is playing well like Minnesota is always a big win. We’re trying to get to that third spot, that fourth spot. We’re right there if we can keep winning.”
Memphis, playing its seventh game in 11 days, moved a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth-best record in the tight Western Conference and is a half-game behind third-place Denver.
“You definitely got to beat a team like this, but more importantly, you’ve got to come out and play your style and try to play the best way you possibly can,” said forward Tayshaun Prince, who finished with four points. “The bench guys showed they have some legs for us and played with some energy when they came out on the floor. That’s what was able for us to get the win.”
Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio just missed his second career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Derrick Williams added 19 points for the Timberwolves, who were playing without center Nikola Pekovic. He missed the game after spraining his left ankle Friday late in a victory over Oklahoma City after scoring 22 points and adding 15 rebounds.
“We had shot after shot, but you’ve got to make plays,” said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “I thought defensively we were hanging in there in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter the floodgates opened and they started knocking down shots. We couldn’t get anything going. Had no answer.”
Arthur scored nine points during a 16-2 run to start the final period, including a 3-pointer and follow shot, to give the Grizzlies an 81-69 lead with 7 minutes to play. A long jumper and a 3-pointer by Quincey Pondexter stretched the lead to 86-73.
Not only did Memphis start to hit shots, it also picked up its defensive intensity. Minnesota had just one basket, a 3-pointer by Rubio, in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter, and also held the Wolves to 43.3 percent for the game.
“In that second half we kind of just hit a wall offensively,” said Chase Budinger, who was 1 for 6 from the field. “Give credit to them. They’re probably the best defensive team in the league at taking on the pick-and-roll.”
In his third game back after missing two games with an abdominal tear, Gasol also had eight rebounds and six assists.
“Right now he’s one of the top three centers in the league. He’s doing a great job. He knows how to play,” Rubio said. “He can assist like a point guard. He shoots the mid-range very well. And on defense it’s tough because he’s so big. He’s great.”
Rubio had nine points in the first quarter, including five during a 12-2 run that put Minnesota up 25-17.
The Minnesota reserves pushed the lead to 37-26, including a desperation 3-pointer by Alexey Shved, before the Grizzlies tightened up on defense and went on a 13-2 run to get within one late in the first half. However, Rubio scored on a drive at the buzzer to give Minnesota a 50-45 halftime lead.
NOTES: The Grizzlies are 20-16 on the road, setting a franchise record for road wins in a season. … Adelman remains three wins shy of 1,000 for his career. … Jerryd Bayless finished with two points for the Grizzlies. He’d been averaging 19.1 points in his last eight games. … The Timberwolves had seven of their 17 turnovers in the third quarter and went 4 for 14 from the field in the period, scoring 17 points.