For the first time in franchise history, the Memphis Grizzlies will open an NBA Playoff series at home. When the New York Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, the Grizzlies gained an opportunity to claim the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket with a win over an ailing and unmotivated Orlando Magic squad -- the Magic were already locked into the No. 6 seed out East.
Memphis made sure to capitalize on its good fortune. Stan Van Gundy rested Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson and Quentin Richardson for the night, so it's no surprise that the Magic never led at any point in the 88-76 loss or that they trailed by double-digits for 34:31 of the final 36 minutes.
The Grizz jumped out to a 27-9 first quarter lead and held Orlando's patchwork squad to 3-16 shooting in the first 12 minutes. Rudy Gay (20 points, 8-11 FGs) and Marc Gasol (22 points, 8-13 FGs, six rebounds, three blocks) smashed through the starting gate and combined for 27 points on 69.2 percent shooting in the first half, while the entire Magic team mustered just 30 points on 35.3 percent from the floor.
Hedo Turkoglu (18 points, 7-13 FGs) and Chris Duhon (five points, three assists) were qualified and stabilizing veteran forces in lineups that featured obscure NBA ballers like Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Justin Harper and Ish Smith. Aside from the first quarter disaster -- where Orlando scored just three points in the final 8:19 of the opening period -- those mishmash Magic lineups managed to avoid an all-out embarrassment the rest of the way.
In fact, Orlando engineered a surprising 21-2 run coming out of the intermission thanks to a flurry of baskets from Turkoglu and some quality play by Von Wafer and Earl Clark, but even that surge only cut Memphis' 26-point halftime lead to a seven-point deficit.
O.J. Mayo responded with two baskets and an assist to push the lead back to double-digits, which highlighted his solid night (15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). As for ace defender Tony Allen, he felt the Grizzlies made the most of their opportunity and positioned themselves well for a run in the 2012 NBA Playoffs:
"I have to say, 'Mission accomplished. First-term goals set.' Obviously there's plenty more work to be done, but this is what we set out to do. We've got to stay focused. Guys, all year, have been playing hard, playing together; had a sense of urgency to move up in that win column. It just shows a lot of character from this group of guys."
With the regular season in the rear-view mirror, the Magic and Grizzlies are now preparing for playoff matchups against the Indiana Pacers and LA Clippers, respectively. Here is the schedule for each team:
No. 4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers
9:30 p.m. ET, TNT -- Game 1, Western Conference Quarterfinals | Series tied, 0-0
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