MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies keep returning from halftime and imposing their style on opponents.
With an emphasis on defense and pressure to increase the pace, Memphis again used a strong third quarter to beat the New Orleans Hornets 96-85 on Saturday night.
“I think our focus coming out of halftime, understanding what we need to adjust, then going out and executing it, has been phenomenal,” said guard Mike Conley, who led Memphis scorers with 22 points.
“We came in the locker room and said: ‘We have to do this, that and this,’ and we go out there and do it.”
Conley, who also had eight assists, led seven Memphis players in double figures as the Grizzlies won their fourth straight. Tony Allen had 14 points, while Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter scored 13 points apiece. Ed Davis had 12 points, nine rebounds and matched his career best with five blocks.
Davis, who came to Memphis in the three-team deal that sent Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto on Jan. 30, said he is becoming more comfortable in his new surroundings and that the Grizzlies’ defensive mindset allows him to roam more on defense.
“When you first get to a new team, you’re a little like: ‘Should I do this or do that?’” Davis said. “But I’m playing more now and just trying to make plays on the defensive end.
“I know there are a bunch of really good defenders, so I can play a little more loose, and they will have my back.”
Jerryd Bayless and Marc Gasol scored 10 points apiece, although Gasol missed all four of his shots in the second half. Memphis has won 12 of its last 13.
As evidence of the Grizzlies’ third-quarter dominance, Memphis has outscored opponents by an average of 26.8 to 17.6 in the last six games, and that includes breaking even in two of those third quarters.
“Being consistent is probably the biggest thing,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “Possession after possession, we come down and we don’t make a lot of mistakes on defense.”
Anthony Davis led the Hornets with 20 points and 18 rebounds, while Ryan Anderson scored 17 points. Greivis Vasquez added 12 points and eight assists, and Eric Gordon had 11 points.
The Hornets lost their third straight and have dropped five of six. The Hornets also realized the turning point was after halftime.
“The game was close until the third quarter,” Vasquez said, later adding: “I don’t think our energy is there like it usually is, so, like I’ve been saying all year, we’ve got to play with energy.”
The Hornets were playing their first game without rookie guard Austin Rivers, who broke a bone in his right hand in New Orleans’ loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the key third quarter, the Hornets actually pulled even with the first six points of the second half, but they couldn’t maintain the push.
“We tied it up, and then we just got sloppy,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t capitalize off of the momentum we had to tie the game.”
After weathering the early New Orleans burst, Memphis stretched its halftime lead to as many as 14 near the 4-minute mark of the third. The Grizzlies built the lead on defense, as New Orleans connected on only five of its first 16 shots in the period and had three turnovers.
The Hornets were only 6 of 22 with four turnovers in the quarter.
Meanwhile, Allen was providing both an offensive and a defensive spark, scoring eight in the period. Memphis closed the third with an alley-oop to Bayless, then a 3-pointer from Conley.
That gave the Grizzlies a 78-60 lead entering the fourth, as Memphis outscored the Hornets 31-19. The Hornets could not cut the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter.
Pondexter said the Grizzlies benefit from veteran defenders like Prince and Allen, plus the leadership of Conley and Gasol.
“These guys that have been in the league and are experienced, they help everybody stay focused,” Pondexter said. “That’s been the biggest change around here. Everyone is focused in trying to get the win. That’s all we care about. No one cares about scoring 30, we just care about getting wins.”
NOTES: Memphis F Zach Randolph missed his fourth straight game with a left ankle sprain. F Darrell Arthur sat out his third game with neck and back soreness suffered at Orlando last Sunday. . Anderson, who entered the game second in the league with 174 made 3-pointers, didn’t hit one until just under 7 minutes were left in the game. He finished 1 for 5 from outside the arc. .The Hornets were 2 of 12 from beyond the arc, tying a season low for 3-pointers made in a game. .Vasquez has led or tied for the team lead in assists in all 63 Hornets games this season. . Memphis has now held 53 of 61 opponents under 100 points. . Conley had three steals, increasing his consecutive games streak with a steal to 52 straight. .At 42-19, the Grizzlies are 23 game above .500, matching the franchise best in games over .500. .The win was Hollins’ 200th as an NBA head coach.