Fresh off a 10-point victory against the New York Knicks, the Memphis Grizzlies continued their early-season roll versus the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Grizzlies (8-1) built a 17-point lead in the second half and held off a late rally by the Bobcats to win their eight-straight game, 94-87.
Memphis hasn’t been defeated since dropping its season opener 102-92 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 31.
The Grizzlies are also the fifth team since the ABA/NBA merger to win eight of more consecutive games after dropping their season’s first game.
“They were a very hot team coming in,” said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. “I thought we played them toe to toe. I think there is way more good than the other (bad) things.”
Trailing by double-digits in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats (4-4) tried to come from behind yet again this season.
Second-year guard Kemba Walker helped spark the ‘Cats with 11 fourth-quarter points. He finished the game with 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
“When we are down, we are not going to put our heads down,” Walker said. “We are going to try our best to close the game out and try to keep pushing. That’s all we can possibly do. We don’t want to give up.”
Also helping the Bobcats was the play of forward Byron Mullens, who scored a team-high 18 points.
Dunlap said he learned a lot about the third-year player out of Ohio State.
“Byron Mullens, for my money, is a better post up player than he is a 3-point shooter,” Dunlap said. “I think that is just an evolution of not so much telling him in a hard way, but just letting him discover that.”
Mullens said his all-around play has improved during the past couple of games.
“I’m just getting more confidence,” he said. “This is going to give me a lot more confidence. It’s working. I’m going to stay down there (in the paint). That is where the shots need to start coming from.”
Despite a 17-point margin entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats managed to slice the lead down to as little as five points with 46 seconds left in the game after a lay up from rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“We fought back” Mullens said. “That is what this team does. We are a really good defensive team. We were down 15 points before a couple of weeks ago. If we were down 15 last year, that would have been it. We just want it. We are getting better each day.”
However, Memphis made 6-of-6 free throw attempts late, including two each from Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, to seal the road team’s victory.
Conley led the Grizzlies with 20 points, four rebounds and four steals, while Randolph added 18 points and 12 boards.
The Bobcats host a trio of home games this week, including against Milwaukee on Monday, Toronto on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday. All games are set for 7 p.m.