Tonight the Utah Jazz finish off the second of a back-to-back set, with a home game hosting the playoff bound Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis, nee Vancouver, is traditionally big, slow, and defense first. They are a throwback to a much simpler time when you needed a small forward who could slash, two bigs who could bang, and a playbook that was suspicious and guarded about this "three point line" business.
Dave Joerger's club is 11th best on PPG, and 1st in Opp. PPG. They play slow (26th), but not as slow as the Jazz do (28th), and by Per 100 poss. metrics they are 9th best in offense and 7th best on defense. Grit and grind is what they are, and what they do. And they have 36 wins already, weeks before the All-Star break. (Point of reference: that's how many wins the Jazz had when they made the playoffs years ago -- including all the wins they got in the playoffs.) The Grizz have mauled their way to 8 straight wins, and while Vince Carter is injured and out, they still have enough talent to cause every team problems.
How do these two teams stack up?
The Jazz are, well, historically a better franchise, and head to head own a 48-23 lead. This balloons up to a commanding 27-8 record in Utah. But most of that was built up against the Vancouver club. The Pau Gasol / Marc Gasol days have changed the fate of that franchise significantly when when their best player was Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Memphis is big, but that works out for Utah, as Utah likes to go big, and play slow. The inside battle between Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Kosta Koufos going up against Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert, and Trevor Booker will be where most of the excitement (and fouls called and uncalled) will be. However, the prospect of seeing Dante Exum and Trey Burke go up against Mike Conley and Beno Udrih is going to be a find side-show.
No, I actually mean it. Conley has made himself into a great starting PG on a legit Western Conference power. He's not the biggest, fastest, or baddest lead guard in the association -- but he gets it done. Our guys will be good to scout him and try to model parts of their games off of him.
At this point in their collective careers I don't think anyone is afraid of Jeff Green, Tony Allen, and Courtney Lee. Of course, by suggesting that they are now going to light the team up. #BlameAmar. I am a bit biased, but I think Gordon Hayward is playing at an All-Star level and should wipe the floor with those guys. It's not like they have Tayshaun Prince anymore. Or Rudy Gay. Or, uh, Blue Edwards. (That's going back in the time machine.)
If you are looking for a marquee matchup you will find it in the paint. If you are looking for where the Jazz could have an advantage, it's on the wing. No Alec Burks. No Rodney Hood. But no Vince Carter. And that means the best guy on both teams -- even with Gasol and Z-Bo -- is G-Time.
And his time is now.