Grizzlies-Jazz Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 05, 2012
What was originally diagnosed as a minor injury suffered by Zach Randolph will instead sideline the Memphis Grizzlies' All-Star power forward for at least six weeks. While the Grizzlies have managed to beat two last-place teams without Randolph thus far, his absence is certain to be felt going during an upcoming difficult slate of games. Looking to win three straight for the first time this season, Memphis tries to avoid a ninth consecutive road loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night. Randolph, who entered Sunday averaging 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds, posted just two and three, respectively, after apparently bruising his right knee in the first quarter of a 104-64 loss at Chicago. After undergoing an MRI on Tuesday, however, it was revealed Wednesday he suffered a torn MCL. "That's life," coach Lionel Hollins said. "You have to go and play. He's not going to be here. We can't worry about what ifs and what we should do to get him back. This is where we are. "This is a great opportunity for a team to show their character, show what (they're) made of, show their mental toughness because I don't think you can have success or growth without some kind of adversity." With Randolph sidelined, Memphis (3-3) defeated Pacific Division-worst Sacramento 113-96 on Tuesday and prevailed 90-86 at Northwest Division-worst Minnesota the following night. It remains to be seen, however, how the Grizzlies will fare as the competition gets tougher. Memphis, which has been outscored by an average of 16.8 points during its eight-game skid at Utah (3-3), visits the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday before hosting Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Jazz, who defeated New Orleans 94-90 on Monday and Milwaukee 85-73 on Tuesday, are looking to open 4-0 at home for the first time in three seasons. "When we bring the energy and the crowd gets behind us, it's just kind of a snowball effect and we're able to create a run," swingman Gordon Hayward said. Al Jefferson, averaging 22.0 points on 57.4 percent shooting over his last four games, scored a season-high 26 to go along with 10 rebounds Tuesday. Fellow big man Derrick Favors also came up big, recording a career-best five of the team's season-high 12 blocks to go with six points and seven boards. "Derrick Favors was the one who set the tone ... ," Jefferson told NBA.com. "He set the tone and everybody got active. That's what it's going to take to win games." It's unknown if Jefferson and the Jazz will have to worry about facing 6-foot-10 Marreese Speights, who was acquired from Philadelphia as part of a three-team trade involving New Orleans on Wednesday. The Grizzlies sent swingman Xavier Henry to the Hornets and a 2012 second-round pick to the 76ers. "We weren't trying to get Speights to replace Zach," Hollins said."We've been trying to get a big man since we started training camp. We were really thin in the front-court area." Speights, who has yet to play in 2011-12, has averaged 7.2 points and 3.7 boards in limited minutes over the previous three seasons. After averaging just 13.3 points on 35.4 percent shooting over his first four games, forward Rudy Gay has totaled 42 on 51.5 percent from the field during the last two. Reserve guard O.J. Mayo has also picked up the pace, posting a combined 30 points during that stretch - three more than he scored during his first four contests. "Having the big fella out we definitely have to raise our focus level up a little bit more and execute better offensively," Mayo said. "Execute better defensively and try to give ourselves a chance to win every night."
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