MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The David Fizdale era as Memphis coach didn’t get off to a glowing start.
The end of his opening night was much more enjoyable.
The Grizzlies climbed out of a 16-1 hole, put together 16 straight points early in the second half and beat Minnesota 102-98 on Wednesday night, spoiling Tom Thibodeau’s debut as Timberwolves coach.
Memphis, which still trailed with 1:45 remaining, closed the game on an 11-5 run to seal the win for Fizdale, the former Miami Heat assistant who was hired to replace Dave Joerger in the offseason.
“You noticed I kept my poise,” Fizdale said of the anemic start that caused him to call a pair of early timeouts. “I was squirming on the inside, but I just knew our team just had some big-time jitters.”
Mike Conley scored 24 points and Marc Gasol added 18 to lead the Grizzlies in the season opener for both teams. Zach Randolph, in his new role as a reserve, had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 25 points, while Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21. Zach LaVine added 19 points.
Thibodeau found some good things for his team, particularly the fast start, but noted his young players need to finish.
“When we go back and we look into it, we’re going to see that the defense wasn’t good enough,” Thibodeau said. “The rebounding wasn’t good enough. The turnovers weren’t bad, but, you know, some of the mental mistakes got us down the stretch.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota connected on eight of its first 10 shots. … Rookie Kris Dunn, the fifth overall pick, made his NBA debut near the 4-minute mark of the first quarter. He finished with eight points after hitting all three of his shots in the first half. “I think I’m starting to get comfortable,” he said, “so I wasn’t really nervous. But, you know, playing in a crowd like that, it was great.”
Grizzlies: G Vince Carter is the oldest player currently in the NBA at 39 years and 274 days. He entered the game in the first quarter, moving him into 26th place on the career games played list with 1,275. He passed Terry Porter. … Memphis is 2-14 in home openers. The only win before Wednesday was in 2014 over Minnesota.
Fizdale became the first Memphis coach to win his debut since Tony Barone Jr. won his first game in the middle of the 2006-07 season, serving as interim coach after Mike Fratello was fired.
After the 16-1 start, Minnesota would eventually lead 20-3, its largest lead of the night. “We were playing the exact game plan we wanted coming in,” Towns said. “We were playing defense at a high level. We were playing quick, the way we wanted to play.”
Memphis played without F Brandan Wright (left ankle) and Chandler Parsons (right knee rehab), who were inactive. G Tony Allen (right knee) dressed, but was ruled out before the game.
Timberwolves: Continue on the road to open their season, facing the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.
Grizzlies: Will follow their home opener with their first road game of the season, facing the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
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