Nuggets
Grizzlies
100 - 85 Final
  for this game

Nuggets hand Grizzlies 10th straight loss in Hollins' debut

Jan 28, 2009 - 5:41 AM By Shawn Pachucki PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups scored 29 points as the Denver Nuggets handed the Memphis Grizzlies their 10th straight loss, 100-85, on Tuesday.

Billups erupted for 21 points in the second half, including 16 in the third quarter, when he hit five of the Nuggets' six field goals.

J.R. Smith scored 20 points for Denver, which has won six straight against the Grizzlies.

It did so despite a new regime in Memphis, which was playing its first game under coach Lionel Hollins. The former two-time interim coach for the Grizzlies, Hollins took over for Marc Iavaroni, who was fired Thursday.

"We stepped up our intensity tonight," Billups said. "They played hard, and I figured they would play tough under some new leadership. Once we figured that out, we were able to get the game under control."

Leading, 75-68, to start the final period, Denver went to Billups, who opened the quarter with his fourth 3-pointer of the night to push the lead to double digits.

The Nuggets outscored the Grizzlies, 25-17, in the final period to seal the win - their third in a row.

"Our defense got more aggressive tonight," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "The energy of the game came from our defense. ... We really relied on our defense even when Chauncey got hot."

The Nuggets blocked a season-high 15 shots. Five of their 15 steals came in the fourth quarter, when they also held a 17-6 advantage on the glass.

After surrendering 106 points per game over their last five, the Nuggets allowed just 37.5 percent (30-of-80) shooting by the Grizzlies, who marked the start of the Hollins' coaching era with their 18th setback in 20 games.

O.J. Mayo scored 19 points for Memphis, which will face Oklahoma City on Wednesday in a matchup of bottom-feeders. Rudy Gay added 13 points and eight rebounds and Darius Miles chipped in 13 points off the bench.

Hollins pointed to mental toughness and apparent unwillingness to fight through rough patches as reasons for his team's continuing struggles.

"What it looks like to me is that guys aren't in good shape and, as soon as there is a little bit of adversity, we tend to start going our own way and doing our own thing," said Hollins, who saw his record fall to 18-47 at the helm in Memphis.

"We have to have to have much better effort, higher intensity, more pep in our step. Winning teams do not play at this pace ... we do want to be a team that wins. We do not want to be a team that loses."

Denver erased a 37-30 deficit early in the second quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies, 24-8, over the final eight minutes to take a nine-point lead to the break. They never trailed the rest of the game.

Mayo and Miles combined to shoot 8-of-13 from the field in the first half, but the rest of the team misfired on 23-of-29 attempts.

"I think that sloppy play and turnovers come from basically us just learning," Gay said. "Although we are all pros here, it also takes time for everyone to get acclimated to what we are doing."

The Grizzlies' 10-game skid is the NBA's longest active losing streak. They have reached 90 points just once during the stretch.

"The positive in all this is this is that I am glad we have a spot that is marked," Hollins said. "This is where we are and we know where we have to go."

Linas Kleiza came off the bench to score 16 points for Denver, which shot 44 percent (32-of-72), including 9-of-23 on 3-pointers.

Billups now has scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games for the Nuggets, who improved to 17-2 in games when he accomplishes that feat.

Looking ahead to a showdown with the Southwest Division-leading New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night, Billups admitted that the team is thinking about it.

"You always look forward to playing elite teams," Billups said. "We took care of business (against Memphis), and now we can look forward to tomorrow."