The Grizzlies tried, but just didn’t have enough to deal with the second best team in the Eastern Conference Sunday evening. The Orlando Magic rode Vince Carter’s 26 points to a 107-92 win.
The Magic (54-23) started the game with a 7-0 run, and led by eight at the half (54-46). The Grizzlies (39-37) made a game of it in the third quarter, taking a five point lead at the 5:38 mark. But the Magic came back with consecutive three-pointers by Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson, and the Grizzlies were struggling to stay in the game from then on.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, this was another game where lack of bench scoring made a big difference. The Magic bench outscored the Grizzlies bench 37-19, while the Grizzlies starters (including no points from Hasheem Thabeet, playing for the injured Marc Gasol) edged the Magic starters, 73-70. Only rookie Sam Young (7.4 ppg in 16 minutes) provides consistent scoring from the bench, though Darrell Arthur (6 pts, 7 reb in 24 minutes against Orlando) is showing some signs, now fully recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that cost him 50 games this season.
Zach Randolph, by far the Grizzlies MVP this season, recovered from an off game Friday against New Orleans to post 24 points and 18 rebounds, his 53rd double-double of the season. Rudy Gay added 18, and O. J Mayo had 17 points.
Sunday night’s loss officially and finally eliminated the Grizzlies from playoff contention in the Western Conference. Coach Lionel Hollins says the remaining goal is to be sure to finish with a winning record. To do that, they need to win three of their remaining six games. The Houston Rockets are the first hurdle in the schedule, at home Tuesday night. Wednesday at Dallas will be a tough follow-up to Tuesday. There is another back-to-back set, Friday at San Antonio, followed by the home finale against Philadelphia. The season concludes next week with road games Monday at Denver, and Wednesday at Oklahoma City.