MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Now more than a month removed from the resignation of Hubie Brown, the Memphis Grizzlies are finally starting to come together.
“We’re getting it,” forward Shane Battier said. “We feel better about ourselves, and we feel we have some go-to things, guys who we know can get a bucket or guys who are really stepping up now. I don’t know if we had that at the start of the year.”
Gasol, who had 17 points in the third quarter as Memphis took the lead, was 9-of-15 from the field to help send the Jazz to their sixth straight loss. Utah has dropped nine of its last 10.
“The food doesn’t taste good. You don’t sleep, but we kept fighting back more than we have,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “This is important if you want to make improvements and come out of this.”
Battier added 18, while Bonzi Wells scored 13 off the bench.
Carlos Arroyo tried to keep the Jazz close in the fourth period, scoring 13 of his 15 points. Carlos Boozer led Utah with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Matt Harpring scored 17 points. Gordan Giricek and Mehmet Okur had 11 each for the Jazz, with Okur adding 10 rebounds.
Gasol hit all six of his shots from the field during the third-quarter rally, at least four shots coming on dunks and lobs. It was a change from the first half when the Grizzlies’ leading scorer missed five of six shots and had three turnovers.
“I had a few turnovers in the first half,” Gasol said. “If my team gives me the ball to create something in the post, I’m supposed to score, get fouled or get an assist.
“I just went out a little more aggressive and ready to score.”
The Jazz stayed close through the early stages of the third period until Gasol took over. Posting up against Boozer and later Okur, Gasol worked his way to the basket and got on the boards. When he scored on back-to-back fast breaks led by Jason Williams, and followed with his third dunk on a lob, Memphis had built the lead to 56-48.
It wasn’t until another dunk by Gasol with about 2 minutes left in the period that Memphis built the lead to double digits, eventually holding a 68-58 edge entering the fourth.
Memphis led 38-37 at the half, but it wasn’t pretty. Neither team could find a rhythm, and while the Jazz shot 43 percent—better than the Grizzlies’ 35 percent—they couldn’t capitalize because of 11 turnovers.
“We are working hard, especially in the first half and the beginning of the third quarter,” Okur said. “Lately, we can’t finish games by grinding them out to the end.”
Memphis appears poised to break out of some doldrums caused by the retirement of Hubie Brown in late November, coach Mike Fratello’s new system, injuries and a tough schedule. And they definitely remember when they won 10 of their first 11 in January last season.
“We’re the same team. We’re the same guys we were then,” said Memphis center Lorenzen Wright, who had a season-high 12 rebounds. “I don’t think anybody had a tougher schedule than we’ve had in November and December. We weathered that, and now, it’s our turn to play basketball.”
Memphis F Brian Cardinal, who injured his right shoulder in Saturday’s game at Minnesota, could miss 7-10 days, Fratello said. Cardinal was activated before the Timberwolves game after missing 18 games with a sprained right ankle. … Jazz G Raja Bell did not dress because an inflamed right knee. … Wells got a technical foul with 3:17 left in the third for flipping an elbow after being fouled under the Memphis basket. Jason Williams received a technical with 5:53 left in the game after disagreeing with a call and firing the ball at official Olandis Poole.