MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Memphis Grizzlies’ new wide-open style under coach Lionel Hollins is starting to pay off.
The Rockets closed to 97-93 with just over 4 minutes remaining, but Mayo scored on a drive and hit a 3-pointer, and Memphis held on. On Monday night, Mayo scored 33 points in the Grizzlies’ 113-97 win at Washington.
The Grizzlies are 2-3 under Hollins, who took over after the firing of Marc Iavaroni on Jan. 22. The last few games, Memphis seems to have a renewed enthusiasm.
“Guys are really starting to get comfortable in our new offense, and the way that we’re running things,” said Mike Conley, who has taken over the starting job at point guard. “It shows when guys are making extra passes and getting guys open.”
Rudy Gay had 18 points and nine rebounds for Memphis, and Hakim Warrick finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 from the floor and had eight rebounds. Marc Gasol and Conley had 10 points apiece, and Conley also had nine rebounds and seven assists. Gasol recorded five blocks.
Several Rockets pointed to the Grizzlies 48-32 advantage in the paint as representative of their poor defense and a key factor in Houston’s loss.
“That’s what really hurt us,” said Rockets center Yao Ming, who had 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. “Every basketball player knows how important paint-scoring is. We ended up giving them too much.”
Houston had won its last 14 games in February before Wednesday night. The Rockets last loss in February was Feb. 28, 2007 against Toronto.
Memphis’ points-in-the-paint advantage was only one example of spotty defense by the Rockets. Yao noted the Grizzlies taking open 3-point shots, and almost matching the Rockets in second-chance points. Others noted a lack of consistency.
“I think there is something wrong,” McGrady said. “We do it in spurts. We really need to come back like we did in the fourth quarter with that energy because we could have laid down.”
Another problem for the Rockets was a less-than-healthy Yao, who left the game in the third quarter with an upset stomach. He returned midway through the final period, but was struggling because of the illness.
“I just cannot stay out there,” Yao said, still looking uncomfortable in the locker room. “It slowed down in the beginning, and I was trying to hang in there. It really hurt me and hurt the team. When I slow down, I can’t guard people.”
The Grizzlies hit six of their first seven shots in the second half and, when Mayo and Conley connected on consecutive 3-pointers, Memphis pushed its lead to 15.
The Grizzlies didn’t let the lead get under double digits in the third, and carried an 88-74 advantage into the fourth.
Houston started making its move with about 8 minutes remaining and trailing by 15. The Rockets went on a 10-1 run, fueled by a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the key by Shane Battier, and another long-range basket from Von Wafer.
The Rockets eventually got to 97-93 with 4:16 left when Yao scored inside and then added a pair of free throws. But with Mayo’s scoring, the Rockets wouldn’t get closer as the Grizzlies shot 53 percent, including 50 percent on 8-of-16 outside the arc. The Rockets shot 40 percent on the night.
“I just thought it took us until the fourth quarter to really start having some energy and defending,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “We just didn’t defend them very well in the first half, especially at the start of the game.”
And while it is only two consecutive wins, Memphis players are starting to recognize the payoff for extra work and a more open offensive approach.
“We’re confident,” Mayo said. “We’re doing a great job in practice, working hard and focusing on getting better.
“It’s baby steps. Put together two straight wins, and hopefully, we can keep it rolling.”
Milicic returned after missing 18 games with a fractured right (non-shooting) hand. Memphis was 2-16 during the 7-footer’s absence. … Memphis had not won at home in a month, a streak of seven straight losses since the Grizzlies beat Dallas 102-84 on Jan. 4. … The Rockets were playing the second of five consecutive games against sub-.500 teams before the All-Star break.