Watson has 23 assists over the past two games.
“This gives me a chance to get more comfortable in the offense and the system,” said the third-year guard from UCLA.
“This is J-Will’s team,” Watson said. “I’ve just got his back until he comes back, and when he comes back, I’ll just follow his lead.”
Mike Miller scored a season-high 22 points, including 11 in a key third-quarter rally that included back-to-back 3-pointers as the Grizzlies took the lead for good, eventually going ahead by 15 in the fourth quarter.
Watson was signed as a free agent by Memphis in 2002 after playing for Seattle. He has played behind Williams since he arrived, but coaches have praised his toughness all along. He has shown that, plus control of the offense, during his starting tenure.
“He’s playing with more confidence,” Memphis coach Hubie Brown said, noting that Watson also had six rebounds. “That’s his toughness. He’s a tough dude.”
“I should have had 10,” Watson said of the boards. “I’ve always been able to rebound. I just want the ball.”
Memphis also won six straight late last season.
The Hawks led 47-41 at the half behind Dion Glover’s 10 point on 4-of-4 shooting.
“We had the lead at the half and could not keep up the same performance in the second (half),” Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said. “The Grizzlies had a good run during the start of the third quarter, we just didn’t have a lot of shots go our way.”
Atlanta, which led by as many as 11 in the half, benefited from some lackluster play by the Grizzlies. Memphis managed 35 percent shooting from the floor, but it seemed much worse as the offense appeared out of sync and the defense soft.
The Grizzlies finally got untracked in the third period, taking their first lead with just under six minutes to play. Memphis closed the period with eightstraight points to take a 70-63 lead into the fourth.
Jackson returned to the lineup after a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. …The Grizzlies activated rookie G Troy Bell before the game, placing swingman Dahntay Jones on the injured list. … Grizzlies F James Posey left the game in the first half with an eye abrasion, but returned before halftime. … Hawks F Travis Hansen, a rookie from Brigham Young,started his second consecutive game.