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Drama on and off the court as Grizz beat Thunder

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in News

Off the court, a come-to-blows altercation between Grizz guards O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen reportedly left Mayo with some visible reminders of the scrape. 
 Kelley Evans

In a game where the backdrop challenged the action on the floor for headlines, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-105 at the FedExForum on Tuesday night.

Off the court, a come-to-blows altercation between Grizz guards O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen reportedly left Mayo with some visible reminders of the scrape. News of the encounter got spread around the country, with Yahoo and CBS Sports among the first to weigh in.

Fans entering the game quickly noticed that Mayo was missing. Mayo, who has been playing with the second unit, missed his first NBA game after appearing in 198 consecutive games starting his career. The official offered explanation was that Mayo was “not with the team” because of bronchitis.

Zach Randolph, who pushed his double-double count to 21, is fouled in a big way. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

Grizz general manager Chris Wallace released a statement late Tuesday: “On the team’s charter flight home to Memphis on Monday, Jan. 3, one day after the Grizzlies’ 104-85 victory at the Los Angeles Lakers, there was a brief altercation between Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo. The club considers the matter closed and will not comment further.”

Sources linked the incident to a card game gone wrong. Allen reportedly asked Mayo to pay up on a gambling debt and Mayo become defensive. Allen is said to have left that area of the plane to cool off and returned to find an even more agitated Mayo. The fight ensued thereafter.

With Mayo absent and newly named starter Xavier Henry out with a sore right knee, Allen was in the starting lineup. Not only did Allen start, he scored a season-high 19 points, 16 of them in the second half. Zach Randolph finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds, recording his team-high 21st double-double of the season.

The Grizzlies out rebounded the Thunder 42-32. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant entered the game as the NBA’s leading scorer, scoring 30 plus points in their last four games. But the Grizzlies held Durant to 28 points.

And it was Allen’s defense that that kept Durant from scoring in the first nine minutes of the game.

“I have never seen a guy get his hands on so many balls and recover and make unbelievable athletic plays,” said Grizz head coach Lionel Hollins said. “He blocks shots, he gets steals and he gets in the passing lanes. He just brings energy and a dynamic that is contagious.”

The last quarter accounted for a lot of back-to-back calls on both teams. Durant had a chance to tie the score with the Thunder only down by three but missed a three-point shot.

A three-pointer by Allen coupled with two successful free throws by him and two more by Randolph sealed the deal for the Grizz.

Rudy Gay scored 27 points and Marc Gasol pitched in his fifth double-double of the season, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Afterwards, the Griz players looked toward Mayo’s return.

“We definitely need O.J. (Mayo) back as soon as possible,” said Allen, who, according to sources, apologized to the team.

“We missed O.J.,” said Randolph. “We’ve just got a good team to build and just play hard.”

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook matched Durant’s 28 points and had seven assists, while James Harden scored 17 points off the bench. Head coach Scott Brooks gave credit to both teams.

“I think both teams have some very good competitive players and no one wants to give in to each other,” he said. “It was a tough loss.”

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