MILWAUKEE -- It's obviously far too late to make a difference this season, but the Memphis Grizzlies suddenly seem to be making significant strides under coach Lionel Hollins.
Powered by Rudy Gay's 26 points -- including a windmill dunk that inspired a kid sitting courtside to holler, "Rudy! That was nasty!" -- the Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-102 on Saturday to win their fourth straight game, tying a season high.
"It's huge for us," Gay said. "For our morale, for how hard we worked. It was big for us. We worked hard and now it's taking off."
Gay looked unstoppable in spurts for the young Grizzlies, who seem to be coming together under Hollins, a former Bucks assistant who took over as the Grizzlies' head coach in January.
"When you start getting wins and see that you have the capability to win in this league, that's what it's about," Hollins said. "Ultimately, we want to compete for a championship. You can't do that without starting at some point."
Marc Gasol scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds for Memphis.
Mike Conley added 17 and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range, saying afterward that the Grizzlies were "making the game fun again."
Richard Jefferson scored 24 for the Bucks, who remain mathematically alive -- just barely -- for the playoffs but now would need to win their final four games and wind up in an unlikely multiteam tie for the final spot to get in.
Trailing by 20 after Gay's big dunk with 7:44 left in the third quarter, Milwaukee made a late run and missed a chance to tie the score when Charlie Bell missed a 3-pointer with about seven seconds left.
But Bucks coach Scott Skiles wasn't impressed -- not with his team having all but certainly squandered a shot at the playoffs by losing 12 of its past 15.
"A team always battles back," Skiles said. "I'm kind of beyond tired of looking at that as a good thing."
Bell finished with 23 points for Milwaukee and wished he could have hit his last shot. But if the Bucks miss the playoffs, Bell says their defense is mostly to blame.
"The beginning of March, we were right there in the eighth [playoff] spot," said Bell, one of the team's best defenders. "We had a nice feeling. March just fell apart on the defensive end. I think defensively, we weren't playing as hard. Offensively, we just hit a rut."
With Gay leading the way, Memphis took control with an 19-7 run midway through the second quarter. Gay scored 10 of the Grizzlies' points -- including a pair of 3-pointers -- during the scoring surge, which gave Memphis a 43-31 lead with 2:15 left in the half.
Conley then launched a barrage of his own, hitting three 3-pointers in the final 1:55 of the first half to give the Grizzlies a 54-38 lead into halftime.
Memphis built its lead despite 10 turnovers in the first half -- including a few that careened awkwardly out of bounds or went into the Grizzlies' bench.
Gay had 14 first-half points and didn't slow down after halftime.
He scored another eight points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including a slick turnaround jumper and the powerful windmill dunk off a fast break that put Memphis up by 20.
Milwaukee went on a 16-3 run over the next four minutes and went into the fourth quarter down by 9, then made a 9-2 run in the final two minutes before Bell's game-tying 3-pointer was off target.
Saturday's game was a homecoming of sorts for Hollins, who was hired away from Skiles' staff to replace Marc Iavaroni on Jan. 25
"It was great to come in and see the guys," Hollins said.
- The Bucks announced that center Andrew Bogut would sit out the remainder of the season because of a lingering back injury.
- Saturday was doubly painful for Milwaukee's Charlie Villanueva: To pay off a friendly wager with Bell, a former Michigan State player, Villanueva must wear a Michigan State jersey in public after his Huskies lost to the Spartans in Saturday's final four game.