Randolph leads Memphis over Wolves

Published 8:46 am Thursday, February 24, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — The always energetic Zach Randolph had little trouble getting his motor running Wednesday night.

Memphis was only a night removed from a loss at Denver that coach Lionel Hollins described as “lousy.” Rudy Gay’s shoulder injury means everyone must do a little more. And then there was another matchup with Kevin Love, Minnesota’s All-Star and double-double machine.

Randolph might have spent last weekend on the beach in Miami, but he played like an All-Star — and outplayed Love for the second time this month — in a 104-95 win over the Timberwolves.

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Randolph scored eight points in the first quarter Wednesday night to get the Grizzlies (32-27) going before finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s taken it personally,” said Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who had 22 points and nine assists. “I think my man deserves to be an All-Star also. He really played like one tonight.”

When asked if he had something to prove, Randolph, who has known Love since the Minnesota forward was in high school, smiled and said, “There’s a little something to that.”

As a result, a Memphis team with playoff aspirations led nearly wire-to-wire, won for the 13th time in the past 17 games and stayed in the mix in the Western Conference playoff race.

“Everybody had a sour taste in their mouth after last night’s loss in Denver,” Conley said. “We just wanted to come in here and handle business.”

Nobody did that better than Randolph, because besides scoring and rebounding, he made Love work hard for everything he got.

Love did record his 44th double-double in a row with 15 points and 11 rebounds, equaling Moses Malone’s streak for Philadelphia in 1982-83. But this one featured some suspense. Love didn’t secure his 10th rebound until there was 3:02 to play.

In two games this month, Randolph combined for 47 points and 23 rebounds while Love was limited to 25 points and 21 rebounds.

“Z-Bo’s a load down there,” Love said of Randolph. “He’s been doing that for nine, 10 years now. He’s been a 20 and 10 guy. They did a good job and had a good game plan.

“He brings a challenge to everybody every single night. He’s been 20 and 10 for eight to 10 years. He’s lefty. He’s unorthodox. People don’t realize how strong he is,” Love added. “He is one of the strongest guys in the league. He just gets great position.”

A night after never leading at Denver, the Grizzlies were much more aggressive from the start. Memphis repeatedly attacked the basket against a Minnesota team that allows more points than any in the NBA, jumping ahead 10-2 just three minutes into the game and never trailing.

“It was very important for our confidence, for our egos,” Conley said. “I don’t think we played with any rhythm, any swagger in the first game. Tonight I thought we made a statement.”