"We understand where the standings are at," said Mike Conley, whose team had its six-game winning streak snapped. "But we still have 20 games left and anything can happen from there. We're just worried about tomorrow."
This was a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NBA not named the Miami Heat. It also was a game of contrasting styles, with Denver trying to push the pace and Memphis preferring to play at a more deliberate tempo.
Early on, the Nuggets controlled the rhythm — and the game — as they led by as many as nine in the first half. Jerryd Bayless beat the buzzer with a layup just before halftime to send the Grizzlies into the locker room trailing just 48-47.
After halftime, the Grizzlies began rolling by slowing things down. They also turned the pressure up a notch and held Denver to a season-low 10 points in the third quarter to take a 66-58 lead.
For three quarters, the Nuggets were lethargic and couldn't match the energy of Wednesday, when they thumped the New York Knicks in Carmelo Anthony's first return to the city since he was traded two years ago.
Finally, they turned it on.
"You grow playing these kinds of games," said Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 15 points, including two free throws to break a tie with just over two minutes remaining. "You cannot grow a lot when you're blowing out a team by 20 or 30. These are the kind of games that make you improve as a team."
Marc Gasol couldn't agree more.
"I don't see it as a setback. We feel confident in the way we can play this team," said Gasol, who chipped in 14 points. "We played this team well for 36 minutes. Then we tried to play their basketball. We kind of played that way for 12 minutes and they won. But I think for 36 minutes we played good basketball but games last 48 minutes, not 36."
Notes: The Grizzlies have been on a 15-5 roll since a three-team deal on Jan. 30 that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto and landed Tayshaun Prince in Memphis. ... Denver has won 26 of its last 28 home games against Memphis. ... The Nuggets are 28-3 when allowing 100 or fewer points.