Atkins Scores 20 as Grizz Win Third Straight
Memphis 90, Utah 84
MEMPHIS, Tenn., March 19 (Ticker) -- The outside shooting of Chucky Atkins and the versatility of Pau Gasol were the ingredients needed to help the Memphis Grizzlies send the Utah Jazz home unhappy.
Atkins scored 20 points - and hit four 3-pointers - and Gasol added 15, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Grizzlies recovered from a halftime deficit to earn their third straight win, a 90-84 victory over the Jazz.
"Pau has confidence to pass us the ball," said Atkins, who made 6-of-12 shots and picked up three steals. "He knows if we don't have (a shot), we're going to come back to him. Obviously, he's our first option. We're going to play through him. If teams want to double-team (Pau), we have great outside shooters and we'll make them pay."
Trailing, 45-34, at intermission, the Grizzlies made their charge in the third quarter with a 20-8 run. Atkins drained three shots from behind the arc during the surge and Eddie Jones' 3-pointer capped it for a 60-59 lead with 2:49 left.
Memphis outscored Utah, 33-17, in the frame to take a 67-62 lead heading into the final period.
"It was a real good effort in the second half," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "We had to find a way to win, a way to tough it out."
In a closely contested fourth quarter in which free throws were the only points during a four-minute stretch, Atkins' 3-pointer ended the basket drought and gave the Grizzlies an 81-76 edge with 2:28 remaining.
After Jones split a pair of free throws for an 86-78 lead with 43 ticks to go, Utah's Mehmet Okur sank three free throws. Gasol made a foul shot, but Andrei Kirilenko drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 87-84 with 17 seconds left.
Jones made two free throws, and rookie Deron Williams' 3-pointer came up short to end Utah's comeback.
"In the second half, they played harder and caused us to take tougher shots," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We shouldn't have been worn down in the third quarter when they put pressure on us. You have to give them credit. They brought it to us."
Shane Battier scored 14 points and Jones added 13 for the Grizzlies, who have won seven of their last 10 contests.
"It was one of those games where you just had to get through it and find a way to win," Battier said. "It wasn't pretty in the first half. We shot the ball poorly and Utah wasn't missing many shots. We came into halftime down 11 and said, 'Hey, guys, we've got to play.' And then we came out and had a great defensive second half."
Carlos Boozer had 19 points and nine rebounds and Okur finished with 17 and 13 for the Jazz. Kirilenko had 16 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
"We're fighting for a playoff spot," said Utah forward Matt Harpring, who collected 13 points and nine rebounds. "Coach Sloan says that playoff basketball is crunch time. We need to run a play, execute and get a good shot. It's frustrating to fight the whole game, have a lead and then all of a sudden, we stop doing what we did to get there."
In the playoff race, the Jazz (31-35) remained two games back of Sacramento (33-33) and the Los Angeles Lakers (34-34), who hold the last two Western Conference spots.
Memphis (37-29) is sixth in the West, two games behind the Los Angeles Clippers (38-26).
"It was a good win because it was one that we had to dig out," Fratello said. "It was also a good win because they're trying to make the playoffs and we're trying to make the playoffs. You never know what the tiebreakers will be, so to win the series is important."