MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The change in the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t mean a change in results.
The Grizzlies, playing their first game since the trade of franchise player Pau Gasol, bumbled and fumbled their way throughout, committing 23 turnovers and appearing out of sync.
“We had a totally different team than what we’re used to playing with, so it will take some time for us to get used to it,” forward Rudy Gay said.
Utah has won 12 of 13 and sits atop the Western Conference’s Northwest Division. Six players finished in double figures for the Jazz, who built the lead to 27 in the fourth quarter and were in control the entire game.
“We didn’t want to overlook them,” said guard Deron Williams, who had 16 points and 11 assists. “We just wanted to come in, play our basketball, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Meanwhile, Grizzlies fans got a glimpse of what the rest of the season might be like without Gasol, who was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Memphis was short-handed and struggled with its new identity, losing its third consecutive game.
Gay led Memphis with 15 points, but was 5-of-15 from the field. Mike Miller and Hakim Warrick scored 14 points apiece, while Darko Milicic finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Juan Carlos Navarro had 11 points for the Grizzlies.
None of the three players obtained from Los Angeles—Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown and Aaron McKie—dressed for the game, although Crittenton did participate in pregame warmups. Additionally, Stromile Swift, expected to be traded Monday to the New Jersey Nets, was not on the Memphis bench.
That left Memphis with only nine players in uniform, and by the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies were out of gas.
“It was a competitive game until we turned the ball over,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “They’re too good. They’re second in steals. We caught the turnover bug, and when it struck, our starters had 21 turnovers. It is too much to weather, and until we’ve got that squared away, it’s going to be difficult.”
The Grizzlies got out to a sloppy start, committing four turnovers in the first 2 minutes, giving Utah an early lead it never relinquished. Utah carried a 53-40 lead into the break.
The Grizzlies whittled a 15-point deficit to seven in the third before the Jazz answered with 12 straight points, starting a 20-3 spurt that built the margin to 83-59 entering the fourth.
Memphis continued to have trouble holding onto the ball, committing 10 turnovers in the third period alone.
“It’s difficult playing short-handed against anybody,” Miller said, “but especially against a team as physical as they are and as well as they’re playing. We cut it to (seven), but there were just too many turnovers.”
Utah coach Jerry Sloan understands the Grizzlies’ situation. His team lost 56 games in the 2004-05 season, and he said Memphis is better than that Jazz team.
“That is a part of basketball, and you still get paid every day,” Sloan said. “I don’t think anybody will fail to get a paycheck, and I think you owe that to yourself, your family and the fans. Bust your butt and play as hard as you can regardless of the circumstances.”
Gay said the whole team needs to contribute if the Grizzlies are going to make any headway in the last 35 games.
“I don’t think I can do much more than what I’ve been doing,” said Gay, who leads the team in scoring. “But, also, I think it’s time for other people to step up. Pau was great for us, but now he’s gone. We have to move on and other guys are going to have to find their identity, find their niche in the league.”
The hall outside the FedExForum media area used to be covered with pictures of Grizzlies players. After the recent trades and releases, there are about a dozen blank spaces in the gallery where team officials removed pictures of Gasol and other departed Grizzlies. … Utah G Jason Hart missed his fifth game with lower back inflammation. … Rufus of the Charlotte Bobcats acted as the replacement mascot for the Grizzlies on Saturday night. Eric McMahon, who dresses as the team’s regular mascot, is being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Various NBA teams are sending their mascots to Memphis homes games this season— the team or the mascot covering the travel expense—to fill in for McMahon. … Milicic has recorded consecutive double-doubles for the first time in his career.