Mehmet Okur had a season-high 23 points, leading the Jazz to a 103-94 victory over Memphis on Saturday night.
The Jazz were without guard Deron Williams, leading scorer and rebounder Carlos Boozer and key reserve Kyle Korver, but still managed to overcome the offensive loss with a strong defense effort. Utah forced 20 Memphis turnovers and left the Grizzlies shooting 47 percent, and only 4-of-14 from 3-point range.
“Utah has been doing this for quite a long time,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “We are trying to establish toughness and discipline ethic, and it does take time. I think we have learned a lot from them. You have to play every possession with your toughness shoes on, mentally and physically.”
Okur was 9-of-15 from the field, including missing only one of his five shots from 3-point range, as the Jazz won the sixth straight game in the series.
Ronnie Brewer, who was 10-of-14 from the floor, added 21 points, matching his career high. Morris Almond had 11, and Ronnie Price 10. The Jazz shot 55 percent, including 54 percent from 3-point range.
Williams missed his 12th game because of a sprained ankle, while Boozer sat out with a strained left quadriceps, and Korver was sidelined by an inflamed right wrist.
“(The injury situation) gives other guys a chance to play, and they should relish that and be ready to play when they get the opportunity,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “We are sorry that some guys are out, but we’re still going to play the game.”
Early on, Memphis was getting to the rim with dunks and working the ball inside. Ten of its first 17 points came in the paint.
But the Jazz tightened up their defense, poking the ball away from the Grizzlies, double-teaming the ball and getting in the passing lanes. That, plus contesting shots, caused Memphis to miss 11 of its first 13 attempts in the second quarter as the Jazz built the lead to 36-29, eventually extending it to as many as 10 before the break.
“It’s like they are all little pests out there, slapping at the ball,” Conley said. “I think we just got a little too carried away. We started crying to the refs a little bit too much, looking for fouls, instead of staying aggressive.”
When the Jazz weren’t committing turnovers—matching the Grizzlies with 12 miscues in the half—they were shooting 67 percent through the first quarter and 58 for the half, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. That helped Utah to a 50-43 lead at the break.
The Jazz were able to stretch the lead at 13 midway through the third as ballhandling was still at a premium. The Jazz continued to pressure Memphis players, and the Grizzlies didn’t seem to match the intensity.
“Everyone was active on the defensive end, and we were able to help each other,” Okur said. “It was a nice game for us.”
Memphis was able to cut the deficit under double digits with a small rally late in the third, and Utah carried a 77-69 advantage heading into the fourth.
But the Jazz ran away at the start of the fourth and won their third game in the last four the only loss, 119-94, coming Friday night at San Antonio.
“The effort on defense is how we’re making it right now,” Okur said.
With all of the injuries, Brewer and C.J. Miles are the only two Utah players to start all 14 games. … In Utah’s five previous wins in the series, the winning margin was an average of 18 points. … Millsap started his first game of the season and only the fourth of his career. Millsap is in his third season out of Louisiana Tech. … Officials reviewed Mike Conley’s runner at the end of the first half and confirmed that it was good. … Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni drew a technical in the fourth for arguing calls. The frustration probably was accentuated by his team going scoreless for the first four minutes of the period. … The Jazz had 29 assists on their 41 baskets, a season-high in assists for a Memphis opponent. … Utah’s reserves outscored Memphis 32-10, a season-low output from the Grizzlies’ backups.