By: Grahm Long
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (AP/The Loop) — Midway through the fourth quarter, Zach Randolph bulled his way to a rebound and accidentally loosened Kevin Love’s tooth with a meaty elbow to Love’s jaw.
It was the literal example of what Randolph had been doing metaphorically to Love all night long.
Randolph had 23 points and 13 boards and Rudy Gay had 22 points, seven assists and seven rebounds to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 102-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Sam Young scored 18 points and the Grizzlies dominated the league’s best rebounding team on the boards, 47-38, to win their fourth straight game.
“I took it as a little challenge to come out and play good,” Randolph said of his matchup with Love, the league’s top rebounder. “Kevin is having a tremendous year. When I was in Portland, he was watching me, grew up looking up to me. It was an important win. The young fella’s got a lot of talent, plays hard and has a great work ethic.”
And the Timberwolves (11-37) have a long way to go.
Michael Beasley scored 19 points and Love had just 10 points and 10 rebounds, narrowly getting his 34th straight double-double. Love is hoping to make the Western Conference All-Star team, but he was thoroughly outplayed by Randolph, one of his primary competitors for a spot.
The Grizzlies limited Love to four points on 1-for-4 shooting in the first three quarters, opening up a 22-point lead that turned the fourth quarter into garbage time.
“To say we played poorly was an understatement,” said Love, who will have X-rays on his tooth on Thursday.
The Grizzlies are the best team in the league at forcing turnovers, and they feasted on the mistake-prone Timberwolves all night. They scored 26 points off 17 Minnesota turnovers and improved to a season-best two games over .500 (26-24).
Beating the worst team in the West wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, but it actually was a sign of progress for the young and improving Grizzlies. They have had a tendency to play down to their competition this season, losing to Golden State, Washington, Cleveland, Sacramento and New Jersey twice.
But this game was never in doubt.
Memphis ripped off a 10-0 run midway through the first quarter and never trailed the rest of the way. They put the game away with a 30-16 third quarter.
“In the beginning (of the year), these are the kind of games we would have lost, but I still think we have room to get better,” Gay said. “Sky’s the limit.”
Gay showed everyone why the Timberwolves tried to sign the restricted free agent this summer. The smooth small forward, who signed a max contract to stay in Memphis, did a little bit of everything, getting to the bucket, knocking down 3-pointers and scoring in transition.
“I was really serious,” Gay said of his consideration of the Timberwolves last summer. “I was on my way here when I got my offer. It was definitely on my mind, thinking about being a Timberwolf.”
It looks like he made the right decision. Randolph and Marc Gasol took care of Love down low, muscling him out off the block and rendering him obsolete for most of the game.
The burly Randolph had eight points and six boards in the first half, and more importantly limited Love to just two points and four boards on the other end.
“The ball didn’t seem to find me tonight,” Love said. “I couldn’t tell you what it was. I never got into a rhythm.”
The Timberwolves were listless all game, delivering an uninspired performance despite coming off a win over Toronto on Saturday, a day off on Sunday and two practices to prepare for this game.
Darko Milicic had three points on 1-for-6 shooting with two rebounds and five turnovers in 20 minutes and Wes Johnson had just four points on 2-for-11 shooting.
“This was bad tonight,” said point guard Jonny Flynn, who started his first game of the season. “This was really bad tonight.”
Notes: Memphis coach Lionel Hollins’ son Austin is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. But dad said he doesn’t watch his son play very often “because I don’t like college basketball.” Lionel said he gets frustrated by the slow pace. … Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak sat in for a portion of the television broadcast to tout the plan for renovating Target Center. The city and the Wolves are asking for $155 million to update the 21-year-old facility. … The Wolves played without PG Luke Ridnour, who missed the game to tend to a family matter.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.