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Wed04162014

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Adversity gives way to unity for a Grizz win against the Jazz

 

Playing consistently as a cohesive unit has been a struggle for the Memphis Grizzlies all season. Everyone involved in achieving the goal knows that a playoff run can be kissed goodbye if it doesn’t happen. Playing consistently as a cohesive unit has been a struggle for the Memphis Grizzlies all season. Everyone involved in achieving the goal knows that a playoff run can be kissed goodbye if it doesn’t happen.


Tony Allen wielded a formidable defense against the Utah Jazz’s Deron Williams in the showdown at the FedExForum. The Grizzlies beat Detroit on the road Wednesday night and face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday in Memphis. See more Grizz coverage in MLK Jr. Day Special Tab.


Grizzlies guard O. J. Mayo launches into power-drive mode against a Jazz defender. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

That is why the team and fans were relieved to see Grizz shooting guard O.J. Mayo return to the lineup last Friday (Jan. 7) after missing the first game of his NBA career on Jan. 4 as Memphis quieted the Oklahoma City Thunder at the FedExForum.

Mayo was battling bronchitis and had just endured a shadowy physical encounter with teammate Tony Allen (who was fined an undisclosed amount). With a healthy Mayo back, the tasks list was obvious – beat the Utah Jazz and play as a unit, letting go of the baggage.

Voila! For only the second time in 15 games, the Grizzlies earned a win against the Jazz, beating Utah 110-99 at the FedExForum for Memphis’ third consecutive victory.

The Grizzlies tied a franchise-high with seven steals in the first quarter, and four were swiped by Allen. The Grizzlies lead the league in points in the paint and it showed, with Memphis outscoring the Jazz 56-38.

“Our focus on defense and our activity and talking is so much better at the start of the game,” said head coach Lionel Hollins said. “I thought we did a heck of a job in the second half.”

Forward Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies in scoring with 28 points, adding 9 rebounds.

“This is the team we should have had all year long,” said Gay.

“We had a lot of ups and downs, but I think our maturity has shown. We’ve gone through a lot this year.”

Zach Randolph did his double-double thing – again – with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Mayo led the second unit with 13 points. And it was the hustle from the Grizz bench that kept the team afloat in the second half.

Grizz-savvy fans know the value of the bench stepping up. They cheered when rookie guard Greivis Vasquez entered the game. He gave the Grizz a solid 24 minutes and made great passes to key players.

Starting point guard Mike Conley picked up two fouls in the first quarter, which opened the door for Vasquez, whose hustle play helped hold down the Jazz’s explosive point Deron Williams, who scored 19 points.

“I definitely feel more comfortable,” Vasquez said. “I like the fact that coach (Hollins) is trusting me a little more. I just want to do my job. I thought the second unit played well.”

Hollins agreed.

“Well, Greivis (Vasquez) got the game ball tonight for being able to come in there and do his job in the situation,” Hollins said.

Allen remains consistent with his defensive prowess. He again joined the starting lineup, with rookie Xavier Henry still out with a sore right knee. With five minutes left in the third quarter, Allen shook up Williams, and flew past him for the score.

“We just all have to be in tune with the defensive end because Coach Lionel Hollins has great plays on the offensive end,” Allen said. “We just need to hang our hats on the defensive end.”

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