The Memphis Grizzlies are beginning to hit their stride under new head coach Mike Fratello.
The Grizzlies will look to continue their recent turnaround when they host the struggling Utah Jazz.
Memphis has won three straight to improve to 9-6 since Fratello took over after Hubie Brown resigned in November.
Fratello has used a number of rotations since taking over the Grizzlies. The Pau Gasol-Earl Watson combination worked well in Saturday’s 104-95 come-from-behind victory over Minnesota. Gasol finished with 23 points and Watson added 20.
“We’re just trying to find a group out there that’s working together, executing and playing at a high level,” said Gasol, who combined with Watson to shoot 16-of-20 from the floor. “We’re all adjusting to a new system and now we’re feeling more comfortable and understanding everything better.”
Watson shot 5-for-5 from 3-point range for Memphis, which trailed by 15 points in the first half. Fellow reserve Bonzi Wells added 18 points as Memphis won for the sixth time in eight games.
“Earl’s gotten a chance to ride minutes and he’s doing a good job of riding them,” Fratello said.
Though things are going well for his team, Fratello could have two less players at his disposal on Monday.
Center Stromile Swift missed Saturday’s game due to neck spasms, and forward Brian Cardinal, who was just activated from the injured list, got hit in the shoulder in the second half and was hurting after the game. The team says both are day-to-day.
Injuries have hampered Utah’s once promising season.
The Jazz have lost five straight and are 3-14 since Andrei Kirilenko went on the injured list with a sprained right knee. Kirilenko still leads the NBA with 4.43 blocks per game despite missing the last 15 games.
Teammate Gordon Giricek had 15 points to lead five double-figure scorers for the Jazz in Sunday’s 99-80 loss to Houston.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan was clearly unhappy with his team’s effort.
“We stood around and watched the ball bounce two or three times and then said, ‘Whoops, we should get that,”’ Sloan said.
Matt Harpring had 12 points and three rebounds for Utah, which is in last place in the Northwest Division.
“I’ve never been in this situation, in a losing streak like this,” Harpring said. “You’ve got to be mentally tough and fight through it.”