SALT LAKE CITY – It had been nearly six years since the Memphis Grizzlies escaped EnergySolutions Arena with a victory.
Back on Jan. 24, 2007, Pau Gasol produced a triple-double for the Grizzlies and Eddie Jones hit a long shot at the buzzer to give Memphis a 132-130 victory.
The Grizzlies had subsequently lost nine straight to the Jazz in Salt Lake City, their second-longest active road losing streak.
That streak isn't active anymore.
Saturday night it was Pau’s little brother who did much of the damage against the Jazz, as Marc Gasol scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half to help fuel a comeback that saw Memphis outscore Utah by 23 points in the second half en route to a 99-86 victory.
The most damage, however, was done by forward Zach Randolph, who scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies’ rare win in Salt Lake.
“It’s been a long time. I ain’t ever won here,’’ said Randolph, an 11-year NBA veteran, who then amended his initial declaration. “The last time I won here was ’04. That’s a long time ago. It’s always good to win here. They got great fans, energy, altitude. It’s always hard to win here. Oh man, it feels good. It feels good.’’
Gasol enjoyed his first success at EnergySolutions, which he compared to arenas in European basketball, where the fans are loud and energized.
“It’s a tough place to play, but it’s a great place to play,’’ Gasol said. “It’s a great atmosphere for basketball, like European, where it’s loud and they’re on you. I like it. When you leave here with a win, it’s a lot better.’’
For awhile it looked like the Grizzlies, on the third game of a road trip that saw them lose the first two games at Phoenix and Denver, might get run out of the gym by the Jazz.
They watched as Utah scored 54 points, the highest first-half total by an opponent all season, while shooting 56.4 percent from the field. This against a team that led the NBA in defense at 91 points per game.
At halftime, the Grizzlies got a good talking-to by their coach Lionel Hollins and came out with much more intensity in the second half.
“We all got together and said, 'they’re outworking us. They’re playing harder. And we’ve got to get back to what we do and that’s defensive pressure and get out in transition,’’' said Mike Conley. “Everybody got together and we did it.’’
According to Hollins, he didn’t make any specific adjustments for the second half.
"It was effort,'' he said. "We got back on defense. We talked. We played our kind of defense, helping and guarding our own men. Our guys made up their mind they were going to give the effort that it takes to win.’’
Hollins also praised the “hustle plays’’ his team made and pointed to three specific plays in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies started to break away from the Jazz.
“Mike Conley saved a ball out of bounds and got it to Randolph and then Conley got a loose rebound and Tony Allen got a loose rebound. I think we scored on each of them.’’
Conley finished with 12 points, eight assists and four rebounds from the guard spot.
“For us to come in here in a very tough atmosphere says a lot about our team," he said. “It’s a big win for us.’’