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Heat win defensive battle at Memphis 90-81

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Both teams were shorthanded as Miami held Memphis to 34.6% shooting.

NBA: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

After perhaps the Miami Heat’s worst performance of the season in Detroit, the team bounced back in a big way, securing their 5th victory of the season 90-81 in Memphis versus a seemingly playoff-bound Grizzlies team that entered the game at 10-5.

Perhaps the story of the game was Grizzlies coach (and former longtime Heat assistant) David Fizdale’s odd decision with PG Mike Conley Jr. Conley was not in the starting lineup and it was assumed that he was getting a night to rest. However, Memphis quickly fell behind by double-digits in the 1st quarter and Conley quickly entered. He ended up playing 23 minutes and scored 16 points, but shot a poor 5-15 from the floor. There was no mention of an injury or minutes restriction for Conley, but regardless, Miami benefitted from this lineup permutation that saw Conley come off the bench for the first time in five seasons.

It was a balanced night for the Heat. Each and every player who entered the game managed to make a positive contribution at some point. Miami was led by Tyler Johnson who tied a season-high with 22 points. James Johnson also added 13 off the bench and Miami also got double figures from Dion Waiters (15), Josh Richardson (12), and Rodney McGruder (10), who got the start for the injured Goran Dragic.

Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts, and Luke Babbitt had modest stats, but they made timely plays on a night where Hassan Whiteside was hurt by foul trouble and held to a season-low 4 points, though he did manage 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and sound defense for the most part when he was in the game. Whether it was a score, a pass, or diving for a loose ball, they did enough to prevent Memphis from clawing any closer into the game.

Even without Dragic and the continued absence of Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington, Miami got hot early and never trailed in this game mostly thanks to 12-31 shooting from three. Miami only was 21-54 from inside the arc (38.8%) and 12-18 from the foul line so the perimeter shooting gave Miami just enough offense to hold off Memphis.

The only other Grizzlies player to sniff double figures was JaMychal Green with 14. Memphis got little from star big man Marc Gasol, who finished with 9 points and a season-low 1 rebound, though he did block 5 shots. Memphis was also without some key players with James Ennis and Chandler Parsons injured and Zach Randolph away from the team as he deals with the death of his mother.

Miami will play this Memphis team tomorrow at the same time, but in the Heat’s house. It will be interesting to see if the Grizzlies roll with the same lineup, or let their leading scoring Conley go back to his usual role.