MEMPHIS -- It was just last Sunday that Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins was so disgusted with team's defense in the first half at Utah that he quickly exited the locker room after a brief halftime tongue lashing.
"Every coach is going to do that two or three times during an 82-game season," Hollins said. "Just walk out."
The Grizzlies got the message. Despite playing awful offensively, Memphis beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 90-80, on Wednesday night to extend its winning streak that started in Utah to three games.
In the last seven of 10 quarters, the Grizzlies (17-6) have held the Jazz, Chicago and Milwaukee to 20 or fewer points. Such defense that limited the Bucks to 35.3 percent from the field has helped compensate for Memphis' atrocious offense which featured 40.9 percent shooting, including four missed dunks.
"Ever since Coach (Hollins) halftime speech at Utah, we have become more accountable to each other defensively, especially in one-on-one situations," Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. "If someone gets beat by their man, there's help."
It's the type of team defense that advanced the Grizzlies to the Western Conference playoffs the last two years. It's five defenders, moving on an imaginary string with perfect rotations to cover open shooters.
"The last 2 1/2 games our defensive intelligence, our focus and our intensity have been excellent," Hollins said. "We've helped. We've switched. We've done all the things it takes to be a good defensive team."
While the Grizzlies had five players score in double figures, led by the inside combo of Zach Randolph (15 points, 17 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (12 points, 12 rebounds), the Bucks (13-11) fell apart because of their cold shooting backcourt.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Milwaukee's starting backcourt, shot a combined 10-of-40 from the field. Jennings scored a game-high 26 points, hitting 9-of-26 shots including 3-of-9 3-pointers. But Ellis, who entered the night averaging 19 points, managed four points after missing his first 13 shots before making his only field goal on his final attempt of the game with 2:30 left to play.
"We had a ton of open looks and just missed them," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "Our defense was acceptable, but we couldn't get anything going on the offensive end. You've got to make pro plays that win a game."
The Grizzlies did so, but most of those were on the defensive end where guard Tony Allen, one of the league's best defenders, put the clamps on Ellis. Allen had four steals, three in the third quarter that led two Mike Conley layups and the only dunk Rudy Gay made on a night he clanked three stuffs.
"I don't know if you can practice dunks," said Gay, who finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. "I might have to go back to eighth grade when I used to try and dunk all the time in practice. It's just being aggressive. You can't fault being aggressive."
Milwaukee, which had won five of its previous six games, looked like it had dead legs on the second night of back-to-back games. The Bucks made just 3 of their first 16 shots and it never got much better, especially for Ellis.
"I know he's angry right now," Jennings said of Ellis. "But with great scorers like that, you shouldn't be worried, because they always come back strong the next night."
NOTES: Prior to Hollins becoming the Grizzlies coach in January 2009, he was an assistant for the Bucks. So when he reported for duty in Memphis, he brought the Skiles' Bucks playbook. "I just liked what they ran," Hollins said. "It fit what we were doing until we got Zach (Randolph) the next season.". ... Conley needs two assists to pass Jason Williams as the franchise's all-time assists leader. Williams had 2,069 assists from 2001-05 and 2010-11. ... Memphis' 36 first-half rebounds vs. the Bucks tied a franchise record for most boards in any half. The Griz finished with a season-high 56 rebounds. .... Marc Gasol's double-double was his second of the season. ... Memphis limited Milwaukee to a season-low 80 points, one game after holding Chicago to its season-low of 71 points.