Karl Malone collected 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds to help the Jazz erase a double-digit second-half deficit and cruise past the Grizzlies, 105-84.
Memphis, which used just seven players until the final two minutes, surprisingly led by 11 points early in the third quarter. But the Jazz turned up their defensive intensity and took the lead for good, 69-67, on a jumper by Malone with 1:14 left in the period.
Utah took a 71-69 edge into the fourth quarter and quickly pulled away, taking a double-digit lead for good, 80-70, on another basket by Malone with 7:26 left. The Jazz led by as many as 26 points down the stretch.
John Stockton totaled 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for Utah, which improved to 3-0 against Memphis this season and 26-4 all-time.
“I don’t know what it is,” Memphis coach Hubie Brown said of his team’s lack of success against Utah. “They’ve got our number. Nobody whacks us like them.”
“We’re one of those second-half teams, maybe it takes us a half to get warm,” Massenburg said. “We got behind early, but we were able to turn it up a little bit in the second half and tighten up more on defense.”
Rookie Gordan Giricek contributed 17 points and Earl Watson had 16 for the Grizzlies, who were missing key contributors Jason Williams, Stromile Swift, Wesley Person and Brevin Knight due to injuries.
“Manpower came through for them in the fourth quarter,” Brown said. “They just wore us down. I could not ask Earl Watson to do anything more for me. He played 40 minutes … he played his heart out.”
Lorenzen Wright added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Pau Gasol chipped in 14 and 11 for Memphis, which has lost seven straight and 10 of its last 11 games. The Grizzlies are just 2-13 since winning their first two contests in January.
Memphis led, 25-24, after one quarter and extended its advantage to 49-37 late in the second quarter before Utah scored the final five points before halftime.
“They threw a zone at us early, which I thought they would, and we simply didn’t do a very good job against them,” said Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson, whose team is 3-2 while coach Jerry Sloan serves a seven-game suspension for shoving a referee. “Then we started moving the ball against their zone, so they had to go man-to-man against us. And once they did that, we did a good job of executing.”
“We’ve got so many sets against the zone,” Kirilenko added. “Today we played pretty bad against the zone, but then we picked it up and started playing better. We had 10 minutes good, five minutes bad - that’s how we played tonight.”