MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Memphis Grizzlies have won three in a row thanks in no small part to strong defense and quick hands.
Memphis used its newfound defensive mentality to force Utah into a season-high 23 turnovers and help the Grizzlies beat the Jazz 110-99 Friday night.
“We’ve got a lot of scorers on offense and a lot of offensive power,” said reserve guard O.J. Mayo(notes), who had 13 points and two steals. “We thought if we put as much effort on the defensive end as we did on the offensive end, we could be a heck of a team defensively.”
Paul Millsap(notes), who missed Utah’s 110-87 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday because of a sore hip, led the Jazz with 20 points. Deron Williams(notes) had 19 points and six assists, but was 4 of 13 from the field. Al Jefferson(notes) had 16 points and 13 rebounds for Utah. Earl Watson(notes) scored 12 points, hitting all five of his shots.
“We just turned the ball over a lot and didn’t execute,” Williams said. “We looked lost on both ends of the court. We lost the game. We can’t win with 20-plus turnovers, and it starts with me.” Of the 23 Utah turnovers—five of them by Williams—17 came off of Memphis steals, leading to only the second time this season the Jazz have lost consecutive games. The Jazz, started the season 0-2.
“I don’t like the taste of it,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of the skid. “I hope they (Utah players) don’t.”
The Grizzlies’ winning streak has come against the Lakers, Thunder and Jazz, all teams at least 10 games over .500.
Memphis led by as many as 15, and held a 14-point spread in the third quarter. The Memphis lead couldn’t be considered safe, however, because Utah has overcome deficits of at least 15 points six times this season. The Jazz also have won 12 games when trailing at halftime.
Memphis led 49-44 at the break, after Utah had a horrible half of ball-handling with a surprising 15 turnovers before intermission—11 steals for the Grizzlies. Memphis entered averaging a league-leading 9.54 thefts per game, and forcing 17-plus turnovers. Meanwhile, Utah was tied with Philadelphia for the fewest turnovers per game in the league at 13.3.
“There wasn’t any execution at all,” Sloan said. “We tried to make casual passes. (The Grizzlies) were quick to the ball. They got their hands on it. That shows their energy level, and the way they went after the ball.”
Darrell Arthur(notes) scored seven straight points for Memphis in the early stages of the fourth, and the Grizzlies had enough of a buffer to hold off a couple of mini-rallies by the Jazz, which cut the deficit to 94-88 with 4:39 left.
“We just kept playing defense and playing defense and never really let them get back,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “They got it to within (six) points, but we never really let it be a game.”
As for how the Grizzlies were able to get so many steals, especially early in the game, Mayo said it was about familiarity.
“We were just active, and they do run the same offense,” Mayo said. “They’ve been running it for about 20 years now. We just try to anticipate what they are trying to do and be really active with your hands.”
NOTES: Utah entered the game having won 13 of the last 14 games in the series. The only previous Memphis win in that period came a year ago 91-89 in Memphis. … Chilean miner and Elvis Presley fan Edison Pena was honored during the game. He was brought to Memphis to visit Graceland. … Mayo returned after missing Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the first game Mayo missed in his career. The official reason was bronchitis, but the absence did come after the in-flight fight with G Tony Allen(notes) on the way home from Sunday’s win at Los Angeles. … Utah’s previous high for turnovers was 22 on opening night in a loss to Denver. Memphis G Greivis Vasquez(notes) had a season-high seven assists.