Utah Jazz Beat Memphis Grizzlies, Bench Comes on Strong

Zac WatneCorrespondent IIJanuary 7, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 8:  Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball during a game against the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA game December 8, 2010 at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Heat beat the Jazz 111-98. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies both went into Friday's contest with .500 records, but with the help of their bench, the Jazz powered their way to a 94-85 victory at the EnergySolutions Arena.

The Jazz have now eclipsed the .500 mark for the first time this season and look to improve their record when they travel to Oakland, CA to play the Golden State Warriors tonight (Sat., Jan 7).

Al Jefferson led the Jazz in scoring with 20 points, and nearly earned his third double-double of the season with nine rebounds. Jefferson fouled out of the game late in the contest to a loud applause from those still remaining, as Utah coasted to a victory.

Paul Millsap, who like Jefferson along with point guard Devin Harris and fellow forward Derrick Favors are on this year's NBA All-Star ballot, chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds.

Utah's bench helped keep the Jazz in the game, scoring 41 points and eventually helping solidify the victory. Josh Howard scored 13 points in 27 minutes, but the spark-plug for the team was back-up point guard Earl Watson, who contributed 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with five assists. Watson's plus/minus rating for the night was plus-19, meaning the Jazz outscored the Grizzlies by 19 points when he was on the floor.

Watson brought an intensity onto the floor that Devin Harris just didn't have. Harris did make several free throws near the end of the game to help put the Grizzlies away, ending up with 11 points, but his assist-to-turnover ratio was 3:4 as he struggled getting going in the opening half. 

Utah is now 4-0 at home, and a favorable January schedule that sees the Jazz play 12-of-15 games in Salt Lake City may help the team build some confidence in the first half of the season.

One thing is certain, if the bench plays like this in subsequent games, other teams better be wary of this surging squad.