When Marc Gasol went down with a broken foot in February, the Memphis Grizzlies (35-24) easily could have folded. Instead, they’ve gone 5-2 to improve to 35-24 and assume the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
“We have pride,” Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “When you lose a great player like Marc, it takes a collective effort to kind of fill in on all the aspects. Marc did everything for our team. I think everyone collectively has tried to step their game up a little bit, offensively and defensively. But we’ve been playing well since Marc went down.”
The Grizzlies beat the Nuggets, 103-96, on Monday. The game was tied at 71 entering the fourth quarter, but Memphis outscored Denver 32-25 in the final 12 minutes.
Five Grizzlies finished in double figures, including Zach Randolph, who scored a game-high 22, and Barnes, who scored 16. Memphis had seven steals, four blocks and forced 19 turnovers.
“This is just a tough team,” Barnes said. “This is hands down the toughest team I’ve ever been on. We got a bunch of misfits and outcasts and people other teams didn’t want. But we’ve been able to bond and gel and make this situation work for all of us. I’ve always been a grinder. I think my game is perfect in Memphis. We picked up some more people to grind and we just kept on going. Unfortunately we had to lose our best player, but it’s given other guys a chance to step up. We’ve still been able to play pretty well.”
Mario Chalmers scored 15 points off the bench, while Lance Stephenson and P.J. Hairston finished with 14 points apiece. Stephenson is shooting 53.1 percent from the floor and averaging 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in five games since being acquired from the Clippers. The talented yet mercurial 25-year-old is already on his fourth NBA team.
“Lance has got to be able to be Lance,” Barnes said. “In some situations he’s been in, they tried to put handcuffs on him and restrict him. With Lance, you got to take the good with the bad. He’s a very talented player who (can) do everything on the court. We love having him here.”
After playing three straight games on the road, the Grizzlies play their next three at home, beginning with Sacramento (24-34) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. The Kings, who have lost three straight, trail Houston (29-31) by four games for the final playoff spot in the West.