While the Memphis Grizzlies managed to slow down the hottest team in the Western Conference, it didn’t translate into a victory in their last game.
They may be able to get back on track against a Utah Jazz team coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season.
After having their six-game winning streak stopped, the Grizzlies will try to bounce back with their 15th win in 17 games on Saturday night when they visit the struggling Jazz.
Memphis (44-20) has been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams all season and allowed just 85.8 points per game - 3.6 below its league-leading 89.4 mark - in 11 games heading into its contest at Denver on Friday.
The high-scoring Nuggets, meanwhile, entered the game averaging 111.5 points during their season-best 10 game winning streak before the Grizzlies held them 24.5 points below that average in an 87-80 road loss.
It was Denver’s lowest point total since an 81-72 loss at Memphis on Dec. 29.
The Grizzlies are percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and one-half game in front of the Nuggets for the third seed in the Western Conference.
“We understand where the standings are at,” said guard Mike Conley “But we still have 20 games left and anything can happen from there. We’re just worried about tomorrow.”
Now the Grizzlies turn their attention to the Jazz (33-32), who have lost eight of 10 to fall one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West.
Jefferson scored eight while shooting 4 for 13 from the field, but appears poised for a better effort Saturday. He’s averaged 18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in the last five against the Grizzlies.
Millsap scored seven in his first action since missing two games with inflammation in his right knee.
The Jazz hope to recover from their forgettable offensive display on Wednesday. They scored 28 in the first half, shot a season-low 35.0 percent and were outrebounded 48-35.
“We’re trying to get in the playoffs we can’t have games like this,” Hayward told the team’s official website. “We were down by 20-plus points and that’s just stupid. We gotta execute our offense better.”
It doesn’t figure to get any easier against a Memphis defense that ranks near the top of the NBA in forced turnovers (15.8 per game) and rebounding differential (plus-4.0).
The Grizzlies have outscored the Jazz by a 55-28 margin in the third quarter on the way to a pair of wins in the season series. Memphis claimed a 103-94 home victory on Nov. 5 before winning 99-86 in their last trip to Utah on Dec. 15.
Zach Randolph carried much of the load, totaling 41 points and 34 rebounds to help the Grizzlies hold a 99-77 advantage on the glass.
Memphis has shot 47.3 percent from the floor while winning seven of nine on the road, with its only losses in that span to East-leading Miami and Denver.
The Jazz had won nine straight home games in this series before the Grizzlies’ victory in December.