Recuperating from a lineup-altering stomach virus, Memphis romps over Boston.
by Kelley D. Evans
Nineteen points won’t cure a stomach virus, but they can feel mighty good to a player who returns after an illness to score a season high.
“We are still feeling a little run down, but it’s just a matter when you step between the lines you can’t make any excuses. You just have to go play.”
Those are the words of Grizzlies reserve forward Jon Leuer, one of seven Memphis players on the injury/illness report released before Friday night’s game against the Boston Celtics at the FedExForum. Five of those players had missed Wednesday’s game against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors in Toronto.
With two players – starter Tony Allen and reserve Quincy Pondexter – still not well enough to take the court against the Celtics, the Grizzlies got a key contribution from Leuer in the 117-100 drubbing of Boston.
Coming off the bench near the end of the first quarter, Leuer subbed for Marc Gasol and when his night was done he had matched the third-highest scoring output of his career.
“I know he’s sick and he was playing his tail off,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. “He made some shots, which was good to see, but he can barely keep his head up right now.”
Leuer’s initial stint in the game extended into the second quarter. He hit two long jump shots, something he’s had trouble doing since the end of the preseason. Then he added a couple of layups and a dunk.
“It’s always nice to see the ball go in, especially when you knock your first couple of shots down,” Leuer said. “The basket just seems to get bigger from there. I knew if I kept playing hard and kept making the right decisions that things would start to happen.”
The Grizzlies’ win extended the regular season home winning streak. They have not lost in the FedExForum since falling to the Washington Wizards during a February 11th game last season.
The Celtics tied their winning hopes to getting the Grizzlies to play at their up-tempo pace. Instead, Memphis forced Boston (4-7) to contend with an inside-out game that the Celtics could not handle.
Gasol led all scorers with 32 points, his third 30-point game of the season. He found the performance of teammates more noteworthy.
“The guys that played tonight weren’t 100 percent themselves,” Gasol said. “They gave us what they had. That is what I care about. You come in and you give me what you got, that’s plenty for me. I couldn’t ask anything more.”
Zach Randolph recorded his 99th career double double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Center Kelly Olynyk, who led Boston with 18 points, spoke to the challenge of defending Gasol.
“He is one of the best five men in this league from a physical standpoint, from a skill standpoint, both ends of the floor offensively and defensively. He is a tough match up for anybody. He played real well tonight.”
The Grizzlies have another day for recuperation before confronting the Los Angeles Clippers at FedExForum on Sunday.
“We’re going to get some fluid in these guys, get their feet up and get ready for Sunday,” Joerger said.
(Follow Kelley D. Evans on Twitter @KelleySthrnGrl.)