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Basketball / Sports

Grizzlies can't stop Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The formula for winning by pummeling the opponent with extra effort more than pure talent is something the Memphis Grizzlies have mastered over the past few seasons.

In fact, it is a way of life that the Grizzlies emphatically returned to over the past couple of months to improve their playoff odds.

However, the team that overcame 36-percent shooting by converting 15 turnovers into 20 points and by gobbling up second-chance baskets in bulk Saturday night was the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Grizzlies' 92-89 defeat at the hands of the Bobcats in Time Warner Cable Arena wasn't a bad loss so much as a wake-up call.

Given the hole they are in in the Western Conference playoff standings, the Griz can hardly afford to get outworked.

"These types of games I feel as though we wanted to win, but the Bobcats were the aggressors," Griz guard Tony Allen said. "They were physical. Their talent doesn't jump out. It's how hard they play."

Sounds familiar?

Charlotte ended Memphis' four-game winning streak by doing exactly what it was capable of as it is transforming from an easy out into a hard-nosed, defensive-minded, scrappy squad.

The Griz (31-24) normally are more proficient at winning ugly, but they couldn't keep Bobcats guard Kemba Walker out of the lane nor protect the rim. Walker tossed in a game-high 31 points on 9-of-20 shooting. He had 11 in the fourth quarter when the Griz fell behind by 13 points and then stunted their rally with poor execution in the final minute.

Charlotte picked up a fourth straight win, its longest winning streak since 2011.

"We want to win," Walker said. "The last couple of years we haven't been so good. This year, we've got guys willing to put in the work and sacrifice. We want to make this organization better."

This was also the second straight game in as many nights that the Bobcats won despite shooting 38 percent or lower. Memphis, also playing the second night of a back-to-back, was led by Mike Conley's 16 points.

Conley had two chances to tie it with 3-point attempts in the final 10.7 seconds but missed. His 18-foot jump shot had given the Griz an 87-86 lead with 50.7 seconds left.

The Bobcats made six straight free throws in the final minute to pull ahead for good.

Griz coach Dave Joerger had predicted that the most mistake-prone team would lose.

"We threw the ball all over the gym," Joerger said. "They had more energy than we did. And I thought we eased into the first seven possessions to start the second half. They got flowing and we had to play from behind. They played really hard. The names on the back of the jersey didn't mean anything."

As the game turned

Charlotte went on a 17-3 run to take an 84-71 lead with 6:15 remaining. However, the Griz charged back by scoring 10 straight points. Allen later got a steal and scored a fast-break layup to cut the deficit to 86-85, setting up the final minute. But the tenor really turned after halftime. Memphis was leading 48-42 and was controlling the game with defense until Charlotte scored 11 straight points to start the third quarter. The Griz turned the ball over twice and settled for misfires on the perimeter during that span.

That stretch accounted for why the game had 17 lead changes and 10 ties.

"Anytime you're on the road, you want to come out and put your foot on the gas pedal and get a lead to let them know that we're here to win," Griz guard Courtney Lee said. "But they hit shots and got confidence. From then on, they were rolling."

The other guys

Walker picked up a lot of slack offensively for the Bobcats. He was perfect from the foul line on 10 attempts. His big night came as the Griz made life miserable for Al Jefferson. The Bobcats' big man had just six points on 2-of-13 shooting. Jefferson came in having scored 29 points or more in eight of his last 11 and at least 20 in 17 of 19.

But he found Griz center Marc Gasol and several double teams too much of an obstacle.

"Big Al struggled," Walker said. "Someone had to pick him up and I was able to do that."

That's what he said

"They really defended well, they rebounded and they started making 3s. They got a good momentum going and it was hard to come back from that. They beat us at our game tonight. The score was where we wanted it to be. They have a lot of guys on that team that work very hard. It was going to come down to the hustle plays and the little things." -- Conley on the Bobcats.

BY the numbers

.370: Gasol and Zach Randolph's combined shooting percentage.

6-5: Griz record in the second game of back-to-backs.

22: Second-chance points for the Bobcats, compared with 10 for the Griz.

Got next

Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 7 p.m. Wednesday, FedExForum

(c)2014 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

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