Jefferson, Jazz bench key 94-85 win over Grizzlies

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz have a winning record for the first time this season and feel like they’re just getting started. “Everything is going the right direction. I feel like we’re just scratching the surface. The positive energy on the team is just amazing,” guard Earl Watson said. Al Jefferson had 20 points and nine rebounds, and the Jazz reserves, led by Watson, outscored their Memphis Grizzlies counterparts by 30 points on the way to a 94-85 victory Friday night. “We feel like our five off the bench could start in this league. We five off the bench believe we can dominate and change the game,” said Watson, who had 11 points and five assists as the Jazz reserves outscored the depleted Memphis bench 41-11. Paul Millsap scored 14 and Josh Howard had 13 points and a key steal in the fourth quarter to help Utah (4-3) stay unbeaten at home in four games. The Jazz harassed the Grizzlies into 6-for-33 shooting in the fourth quarter and the interior defenders repeatedly challenged at the rim to block 10 shots, boosting their NBA-leading average of 7.5 per game. “I thought our defense was about as good as I’ve seen it from one to five. The stuff we did on the defensive end was really encouraging,” Utah coach Ty Corbin said. Tony Allen made two free throws to give Memphis a 63-56 lead, its largest of the second half, with 4:56 left in the third quarter. But the Jazz, with all reserves on the court, went on an 11-1 run to end the period, capped by an offensive rebound and fallaway shot by rookie Enes Kanter that brought the crowd to its feet and put Utah up 67-64. “I should be embarrassed to say it, but sometimes we start out or play a little sluggish but Derrick Favors and Big Turkey (Kanter) come in and show us how to do it. When we come back in, we just try and keep up what they got going,” Jefferson said. Millsap sparked a 9-0 spurt in the fourth quarter to widen the gap to 78-68 with 6:16 to play. “That run kind of stunned us. We weren’t able to weather that storm,” Allen said. Marc Gasol and Allen both scored 21 points and Rudy Gay added 17, but the Grizzlies had 20 turnovers and appeared bothered by Utah’s rugged style of defense. “It’s tough to play here. We all knew that,” Gasol said. “They play extra hard and the crowd is unbelievable. We have to be better at the end.” Memphis lost leading scorer Zach Randolph to a right knee injury in the first quarter of a 104-64 loss at Chicago on Sunday. He has a torn MCL and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. The Grizzlies beat two last-place teams this week in Sacramento and Minnesota without Randolph, but couldn’t get scores or stops down the stretch against the Jazz. Utah topped 50 percent shooting and scored 52 points in the paint. “Here’s the deal: Zach’s not here and if he was here, we still would have gotten our butts beat if we didn’t execute down the stretch,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. Howard left the previous game with a strained left quadriceps but healed enough to team with Gordon Hayward to play tight defense against Gay in the fourth quarter, including a steal when Memphis was still within striking distance. “That was the plan: No easy buckets for them. We tried to make everything difficult,” Hayward said. The Jazz have won their last nine games against Memphis at home and overcame an early 10-point Memphis lead. “We put an emphasis on winning at home. We are creating that edge and holding teams to low numbers and making it tough on them. That’s the home-court advantage Utah is known for,” Watson said. Notes: Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian to play in the NBA, was re-signed by the Grizzlies last week but was not with the team due to personal matters. . Marreese Speights had yet to play this season until he was acquired by Memphis this week from Philadelphia. He played 6 scoreless minutes. O.J. Mayo faked Watson out of his shoe on a fast break in the first half.

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