MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Memphis Grizzlies would not let another game slip away in the second half.
“We’ve got a team that can lock down when we need to,” Atkins said. “A team like Atlanta, we’ve got to come out and put the pedal to the metal on those guys and make sure they know it ain’t going to be an easy night.”
Pau Gasol added 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Memphis, which snapped a three-game losing skid and won its sixth straight over the Hawks.
The 40-6 run that spanned the second and third quarter allowed Memphis to take a 71-45 advantage midway through the third period. Atlanta never got it under 10 the rest of the way, losing their 11th game in the last 13.
“I think the third quarter beat us,” said Josh Smith, who led Atlanta with 26 points. “We came out kind of flat, and they took advantage of it. Chucky Atkins knocked down some threes early and got the lead to 20 real quick.”
Atlanta leading scorer Joe Johnson struggled from the field, missing his first nine shots before hitting a basket with under a minute left in the third period. He finished with five points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field.
“It’s very rare for Joe,” Smith said of Johnson’s performance. “This is my first time, honestly, seeing him play like this.”
Memphis’ starting backcourt tandem of Atkins and Eddie Jones had struggled from the field recently, putting more pressure on Gasol in the post. Against Atlanta, Atkins hit three of his first four shots, and Jones was 3-of-6 in the second period.
“Shooting is the last things I worry about,” Atkins said. “That is one of the things I use to make a living. Sometimes it comes and goes.
“I told Eddie we were going to get things started early between me and him. We know Pau’s going to do his thing. He’s getting the ball so close to the basket, he just turns around and lays it in. Our team goes the way me and Eddie Jones go.”
Memphis built an early 13-point lead, but a 21-2 run by the Hawks in the second quarter erased the Grizzlies’ advantage. Tyronn Lue and Smith keyed the streak, Smith’s 3-pointer and layup, giving Atlanta its biggest lead of the game at 39-31.
Memphis closed the half with a 18-3 stretch and had a 49-42 lead at intermission. Gasol scored 12 points, while Miller had 10 off the bench for Memphis.
Smith led Atlanta with 17 points and three blocks in the first half. He finished with five blocks.
“We were down early, and we were able to fight back and get in the game,” said Lue. “In the third quarter, we had fought so hard to get back, I think we might have run out of energy.”
The Memphis run from the second quarter extended beyond halftime with Memphis scoring the first seven points of the second half and extending the lead to 71-45 before carrying a 78-60 lead into the final period.
Hawks C Zaza Pachulia did not dress because of flu-symptoms. He had missed only one other game this season, on Dec. 14 against Philadelphia with back spasms. Johnson is the only Atlanta player to play in all 72. … Lue played in his first game since Feb. 6 when he suffered a right knee injury in practice. …The Hawks had lost three of the last five games to the Grizzlies by three points or less, including 85-84 on Nov. 12. … Memphis G Jones hit a rebound layup in the second quarter, ending an 0-for-16 slump. … Smith’s five blocks gave him 320 for his career, moving him into a tie with Antoine Carr for ninth place on the Hawks’ all-time list.