MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Grizzlies are starting to treat every night as a playoff game in attempt to hold onto their postseason hopes.
And, they're having a good time doing it.
Zach Randolph scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Grizzlies maintained their hold on the final Western Conference playoff berth with a 103-85 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
``Each game is a playoff game for us,' Randolph said. ``We're trying to get there. We're in the last spot. We're trying to hold onto it or move up. So it's important every game to come out and be focused.'
Seven Memphis players finished in double figures as the Grizzlies won for the third time in four games. Darrell Arthur scored 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, while Tony Allen had 12 points.
Paul Millsap led Utah with 15 points, and Al Jefferson scored 12.
While the Jazz shot 49 percent for the game, they committed 19 turnovers. Utah was outscored in the paint 66-40 and outrebounded by Memphis 40-30, including 14 offensive rebounds for the Grizzlies.
Utah, which lost 110-108 at Houston on Sunday, dropped three games behind Memphis for the final spot, a tough blow with only 11 games left.
``We're still in it,' Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. ``We've got to keep fighting. It's a disappointing loss. The last two games have been disappointing losses, but we have to continue to fight. We can't quit until we're out of it.'
Memphis had a season-high 33 assists on 45 baskets, and weathered a slight rush by the Jazz early in the fourth. Mike Conley had 11 assists to go with his 11 points.
``The biggest thing I think is that we're having a lot of fun,' Conley said. ``This whole ordeal has been great for us. Being so close, almost sniffing at a playoff berth, knowing that each game is basically a playoff game for us because it means so much. We're so focused and having fun with it that we're all so excited when the game time comes around.'
That excitement didn't surface early Monday as Utah built a lead when the Grizzlies came out of the gate shooting poorly.
``We started out the way we wanted to,' said Jazz rookie guard Gordon Hayward, who scored eight points. ``We came out and played defensive basketball, got a lot of stops. As the game went on defensively, we let them get too many second chances and too many buckets in transition.'
Memphis' defense began causing turnovers that led to those transition baskets. The Grizzlies built their own lead, eventually reaching 15 points in the half.
The Grizzlies' rally coincided with Jazz point guard Devin Harris leaving the game early in the first quarter with a right hamstring injury. He didn't return.
``We got off to a decent start,' Corbin said, ``then we got away from it once (Harris) got out of the game. It's not just the point guard. We lost the execution. We lost our energy.'
But Utah chipped away at the advantage as its defense tightened. The Jazz defenders doubled Randolph and Gasol in the post to try and cut down on their effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Millsap was perfect on his five shots in the half, en route to 11 points. Jefferson, who averages 19 points a game, was held scoreless until a hook shot with 2:22 left in the half. The Jazz had cut the lead to single-digits, but Mayo's 3-pointer at the halftime horn gave Memphis a 54-42 lead at the break. Utah was still shooting well in the third period, but unable to make any headway on Memphis' advantage. The Grizzlies, who lead the league in points in the paint at 50.7 a game, already had surpassed their average by the end of the third quarter, helping Memphis carry an 80-65 lead into the final frame. Utah, which has a league-best 12 games where it has erased double-digit deficits in the second half, tried to start another comeback entering the fourth.
Jefferson and Ronnie Price scored baskets and Hayward nailed a 3-pointer before Memphis could get on the board. That pulled Utah within 80-72, but Memphis answered with a 15-3 run and saw its lead reach 95-75 at the midway point of the fourth. The victory gave Memphis a split in the season series, despite the Jazz winning the first two games.
``On top of being able to get the tiebreaker and for us to move a whole game up, you would think that we'd be able to play,' Jazz guard C.J Miles said. ``(The Grizzlies) played better as a whole.'
For Memphis, the victory not only provided a buffer from Utah, but also gave the Grizzlies momentum going on the road to face Eastern Conference division leaders Boston and Chicago before returning home against the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
``I think everybody is excited,' Conley said of the upcoming games. ``We're not scared. We're not afraid. ... We understand this is what we wanted. This is what we've been asking for, so we have to be ready for it.
``We can't lower our heads and say: 'We've got to play two of the best teams coming up on the road,' and be down about it. We've got to take the challenge and take it head on.'
Notes: Before the game, Grizzlies F Rudy Gay was given his commemorative ring from his performance as part of USA Basketball's gold medal team in the 2010 FIBA World Championships. ... Utah starting G Devin Harris went to the bench only 3 minutes into the game with a strained right hamstring and did not return. ... Jazz F Derrick Favors sprained his left ankle with just over 2 minutes left in the third and did not return.
The Associated Press News Service
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