MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Memphis Grizzlies sprinted past the Phoenix Suns and closer to home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Rudy Gay scored a season-high 32 points and the Grizzlies won their fourth straight with a 104-93 victory over the Suns on Wednesday night.
Memphis outscored the Suns 17-6 after Phoenix tied the game at 87 with 6:27 left. Dante Cunningham had six of his 10 points during the stretch run.
``I was just flashing to the open areas, trying to be an open body when my man doubled,' Cunningham said. ``It's all about weathering the run, then putting together your own run, then finishing and closing the game out.'
The victory, coupled with the Los Angeles Clippers' 100-98 win at Oklahoma City, left the Grizzlies a half-game behind the Clippers for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Suns' two-game winning streak was snapped. They dropped a spot to 10th in the Western Conference as Utah, with its 103-91 victory at Houston, jumped over Phoenix into the ninth spot.
``We really have to focus on getting every win possible and not worry about the standings,' said Suns reserve forward Josh Childress. ``When the season is over, see where we stand. We can't be playing for that seed. We've got to be playing to win every game.'Zach Randolph had 17 points and nine rebounds for Memphis, which won for the ninth time in the last 11 games. O.J. Mayo finished with 15 points, and Mike Conley had 12 points and seven assists.
Marcin Gortat had 19 points for Phoenix on 9 of 12 from the floor, while Shannon Brown scored 18. Rookie Markieff Morris had 17 for Phoenix, and Steve Nash had 11 points and 10 assists.
But it was the stretch run that hurt the Suns. Phoenix had opened the fourth quarter with an 11-1 burst as Memphis missed its first four shots. The rally gave the Suns an 83-81 lead.
The game settled into a series of lead changes and ties, the final one coming on a drive by Sebastian Telfair, knotting the score at 87 with 6:27 left.
Memphis then scored six straight points, part of a 13-4 run to take the lead to 100-91. A key down the stretch was Memphis grabbing three offensive rebounds, keeping the ball from the Suns and leaving Phoenix on defense when it trailed.
``We've got to do a better job of finishing games, especially on the road,' Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. ``We play hard and put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to win a game, and you just have to finish it.
``We did a poor job of executing the last 3 minutes of the game, and that's where the game was won.'
Memphis led 59-53 in a first half that saw very little defense for either team. Both teams were shooting 59 percent at the half, each hitting 24 of their 41 shots. Both teams were above 60 percent until the final minute of the half.
``The key thing is making sure you don't get into their style of play and forget to play defense,' Mayo said of the Suns. ``The first half was kind of like that. In the second half, we knew that we could get stops and continue scoring.'
The Suns relied on the inside presence of Gortat, who had 15 points in the half, missing only one of his eight shots. Childress was perfect on his five shots in the half for all of his 10 points in the game, and Phoenix had 42 points in the paint.
Gay led Memphis with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while Randolph had 13 points.
``It was one of those things where I had it going and nobody else was really scoring, so I felt I had to be aggressive offensively,' Gay said. ``I just tried to make the best plays possible to help the team, stay within our offense and get what I can out of it.'
Memphis grabbed the first double-digit lead of the game early in the second half after a pair of technical fouls, one on Nash for a no-call, another on Brown during a scrum for position on an inbounds pass, contributed to a 65-55 lead.
The Suns whittled it to 70-67 before Memphis rebuilt the advantage to 80-72 heading to the fourth. Then Phoenix opened the fourth quarter with a burst, retaking the lead before faltering at the end.
``We played solid defense, we just have to come up with those rebounds, and I was a culprit of it,' Childress said. ``We can't short-change ourselves if we play as hard as we did and not get those rebounds.'
After the Suns' dominance inside in the first half, Phoenix managed to outscore Memphis in the paint by 56-54. The teams couldn't keep the first-half shooting performances. While Memphis shot 42 percent, the Suns were limited to 37 percent after the break.
``Our activity, being in the paint, being up on the pick-and-roll, was much better,' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said of the second half, later adding: ``The fact that we were scoring, we stayed ahead. Then we figured out how to stop them defensively, and we expanded the lead.'
NOTES: The Suns missed a chance to sweep the Grizzlies for the first time since the 2007-08 season. ... Grant Hill missed his ninth game after undergoing right knee surgery on March 30. The Suns are 5-4 since the injury. ... Nash's 10 assists marked his 36th game this season with 10 or more. ... Gay's point total was his first 30-point game since Dec. 26, 2010, at Indiana, when he scored 30. ... Memphis ended the night shooting 50 percent. The Grizzlies are 12-0 when hitting at least half their shots.
The Associated Press News Service
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