Gasol, Grizzlies beat short-handed Timberwolves

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- With Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis out of action, what was left of the Minnesota Timberwolves wasn't enough to even put a scare into the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies.

Pau Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Chucky Atkins added 17 points, and the Grizzlies beat the injury-depleted Timberwolves 92-76 on Tuesday night.

"It's very difficult," Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said of taking his young players against the Grizzlies. "You know [we're] coming in here against a veteran team like Memphis who is playoff ready; they are playoff tough.

"To come in here for our young guys and compete the way they did, it's a tough task. But this gives our young guys a taste of what playoff basketball and playoff-ready teams [are] about."

Memphis won for the fourth time in five games and moved a half-game ahead of the idle Los Angeles Clippers for the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Bobby Jackson finished with 16 points for the Grizzlies, Jake Tsakalidis contributed 12, and Mike Miller scored 10. Gasol added six assists.

Besides missing All-Star Garnett, who has tendinitis in his right knee, and Davis, the team's second-leading scorer, Minnesota was also without guards Anthony Carter and Troy Hudson. That's an average of 54 points and almost 20 rebounds a game that didn't make the trip to Memphis.

"I really admire what Casey is doing," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "When you take guys out of your lineup like Ricky Davis and KG, it makes it very difficult to play at this level."

The absences gave Minnesota adequate reasons to continue giving younger players extra minutes.

Justin Reed led the Timberwolves with 14 points on 7-of-11 from the field. Rashad McCants scored 11 points and Marcus Banks added 10.

The Timberwolves have lost four of five overall and 14 straight on the road. Minnesota has not won away from home since Feb. 6.

Memphis had a double-digit lead in the first quarter, and Minnesota never threatened the rest of the way.

Memphis built its 18-point first-half lead as Atkins hit his first four shots, all from outside the arc. The Grizzlies connected on seven of their first 11 from long range.

"A team like that, you want to jump on them early so they don't get any confidence," Atkins said. "If you let them linger around and linger around, they get confident, then they are tough to beat. We wanted to come out and put the heat on them right away and let them know we weren't going to play around.

"A team like that, if you jump on them like we did, they tend to give up because they are just trying to get the season over right now."

Memphis carried a 44-29 lead into halftime as Atkins scored 14 and Gasol added 12 points.

Banks had all 10 of his points for the Timberwolves in the first half.

The domination continued after halftime, with Tsakalidis getting into the act for eight straight points in the third period, helping Memphis maintain its 20-point lead through much of the quarter. The Grizzlies carried a 68-50 lead into the fourth.

"In the third quarter," Memphis guard Eddie Jones said, "I came out and brought the guys together and told them: 'Listen, the last few games, we've been coming out in the third quarter and letting teams get back in it and feeling good about themselves. How about we go out and just finish a team off?'

"That's what happened."

Game notes
Gasol played in his 376 game for the Grizzlies, passing Shareef Abdur-Rahim for third on the franchise list. ... Of the last five games on the Grizzlies' schedule, only the Clippers have a winning record. ... The Grizzlies are trying to go into the playoffs with momentum this year. In the previous two seasons,
Memphis limped into the playoffs with records of 1-5 and 1-6. ... McCants limped to the locker room with just over 9 minutes left in the fourth with a sprained right ankle. He did not return. ... Jones was 1-of-5 in the game, making him 11-for-45 from the field in his last six games. ...Memphis has won 10 of its last 11 at home. ... Minnesota F Eddie Griffin had two blocks in the game,
right at his 2.09 average, good for 10th in the league.