Staying above the break-even mark

Although they’ve struggled over the last three weeks, the Memphis Grizzlies continue to play with a lot of confidence at home.

The Grizzlies will go for their third straight win Sunday night when they host the Utah Jazz.

Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have opened Memphis as a six-point home favorite, with the total set at 189.

After losing seven of nine while averaging 87.3 points, Memphis has won its last two – both at home – including a 98-92 victory over Indiana on Friday.

The Grizzlies (14-13) had five players score in double figures and received a lift off the bench in the fourth quarter from their reserves.

After the score was tied at 86 with 4:30 remaining, reserve O.J. Mayo hit five of the Grizzlies’ 10 free throws down the stretch to finish with 13 points. But it was the play of center Hamed Haddadi and guard Jeremy Pargo early in the period that Mike Conley felt was especially crucial.

“It gives you a little more energy and you are able to play harder for a longer period of time,” said Conley, who scored 15 points. “The last four or five minutes of the game is where it’s crunch time and you have to make the right decisions. Having your legs is a big part of that.”

Playing at home also appears to be giving the Grizzlies energy. They improved to 9-4 at home with Friday’s win, and have won three straight at FedEx Forum against Utah.

“Every team in this league is tough, but we know that Utah is playing really well right now,” guard Quincy Pondexter said. “They are surprising everybody. When we come out, we are going to use what we did this game to learn for the next game. It is fun. This half of the season is fun. Every game is a well-fought battle, and we are looking forward to it.”

Though the Jazz (13-12) have Pondexter’s attention, they’re lost three straight and five of six heading into a road back-to-back-to-back stretch. They are coming off a 101-87 defeat against Oklahoma City on Friday.

Al Jefferson scored 20 points and Raja Bell hit three 3-pointers en route to 13 points, but Utah was outrebounded 46-32, giving up 10 offensive boards.

The Jazz have averaged 91.3 points the last three games. Paul Millsap, who scores 16.3 points per game, was held well under his average for the second time in that stretch after going 4 for 15 and finishing with 10 points Friday.

“I thought he went in there pretty hard,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He’s just to keep plugging at it. … He’ll make the shots, he just didn’t make them tonight.”

Millsap is averaging 13.4 points and shooting 41.9 percent the last eight games after putting up 22.8 points on 57.4 percent shooting in the previous nine.

Utah has lost four straight away from home to drop to 2-7 on the road. The Jazz are giving up a league-worst 104.2 points outside of Salt Lake City and they know the lack of rest will make defending a challenge in Memphis.

“They’re all crucial for us now,” Corbin said. “We’ve got to concentrate on controlling the tempo of the game and be a lot more aggressive on both ends of the floor.”

The Jazz received the kind of defensive effort they are looking for on this trip the last time they last faced the Grizzlies. Utah forced 20 turnovers and held them to 41.3 percent shooting in a 94-85 home win Jan. 6.

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