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Jazz grind out impressive 93-82 win in Memphis

SHARE Jazz grind out impressive 93-82 win in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Utah Jazz must have misunderstood something. The FedEx Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies, is called “The Grindhouse” because of what the home team usually does to opponents, not the other way around.

Utah has now gotten it backwards twice this season on Beale Street.

In December, the Jazz’s grinding gave them a 97-91 win over the Grizzlies, a surprising third win to end their six-game pre-Christmas road trip.

On Tuesday, the Jazz’s grinding led to a big 93-82 victory, giving them their first three-game winning streak in more than a year.

“It seemed like we couldn’t get over it,” Jazz forward Jeremy Evans said of Utah's habit of winning two straight games, then losing the third, something that's happened five times this season. “Tonight we came out and played hard and wanted to fight and win the game.”

As NBA players like to tweet about, it was their time to grind.

Predictably, Jazz coach Quin Snyder didn’t want to focus on the three-game winning streak, which improved Utah’s record to 24-35. He even pointed out the fact that Memphis was a bit shorthanded, playing without key cogs Zach Randolph (ill) and Tony Allen (suspension).

But, before he went around shaking players' hands in the locker room after the game, Snyder couldn’t help but like what he saw his team do against the team with the second-best record (42-17) in the Western Conference.

“I think what we’re doing right now is playing good basketball,” Snyder said. “I never want to read too much into one win, but I like how we played. I like how we had some rhythm on offense in addition to defending.”

Ah, defending.

The way the Jazz are playing, it almost seems like Defending needs to be capitalized.

Or maybe in upper case letters: DEFENDING.

The Grizzlies became Utah’s fifth victim in the past six games to be held between 75-82 points. And, yes, all of those other opponents lost too, including the Spurs and Blazers.

Memphis, hampered all night by the swarming and stifling of Jazz players inside and out, was held to 40.2 percent shooting, totaled only 38 first-half points, got outrebounded 55-37 (a lopsided result thanks in large part to Utah center Rudy Gobert’s career-high 24 boards) and had seven shots blocked.

“I think everybody played great defense,” Gobert said.

“I’ve said it before, as long as we play defense we give ourselves a chance at the end of the game,” Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. “We played really well.”

That defensive effort helped buoy the Jazz until their offense got going. Case in point: Through the first quarter and a half, Utah had made only seven of 28 shots but still managed to be knotted up on the scoreboard with the Grizzlies.

Utah’s offense followed Hayward’s lead in the second half.

Right before halftime, Hayward, who’d been slumping of late, raised his arms and pointed heavenward after hitting a long jumper.

He kept that hot hand in the third quarter, when he scored 13 of his 21 points.

Power forward Derrick Favors continued his all-around solid play in the second half, sparking a game-clinching 18-6 run in the fourth quarter. He had six of his 21 points in that pivotal stretch, which saw Utah’s lead explode from 67-65 to the biggest advantage of the game (14 points).

“I thought the way (Hayward) started the second half gave us a little life on offense,” Snyder said. “Derrick really had a good game. He had a presence on both ends of the floor all night.”

So did Gobert, who chipped in 15 points to go with his monstrous rebounding game. About the only thing the 7-foot-1 Stifle Tower, who helped hold All-Star center Marc Gasol to 6-of-15 shooting, did not do was get a blocked shot.

But Favors had three swats while starting point guard Dante Exum (two), Evans and Rodney Hood also had blocks. Hayward led the Jazz with three steals.

The Jazz’s road trip takes a Northeastern tour for the next three games, including battles against Boston, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. The Celtics, coached by Hayward’s old Butler bench boss Brad Stevens, beat the Jazz 99-90 in Utah on Jan. 26.

A certain somebody remembers that well.

“Great win tonight fellas!” Hayward tweeted after Tuesday’s win. “Another tough test tomorrow #weowethem."

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