There are three absolutes in life: death, taxes, and Marc Gasol dominating the Utah Jazz. Gasol—evidently Rudy Gobert’s kryptonite when not playing in a FIBA match—gave Utah a taste of their own medicine and let them know how it feels to be on the other side of a Gobert-like defense. The Utah Jazz shot an abysmal 36.9% from the field and 32% from three as the barely broke 81 points—that was the amount they scored in just one half against Golden State.
Utah, which had been speeding up the tempo to start the season, allowed Memphis to control the pace of the game. With the pace dropped, Utah struggled to manufacture points. Donovan Mitchell seemed to be the only one who could create his own shot, but struggled from beyond the three point stripe. Donovan has yet to have a game this season shooting above 50% from the field. Both Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum struggled as they combined to shoot 3 for 19 with a combined +/- of -20.
The only two players in this game who somehow managed to have a positive +/- were Joe Ingles and Grayson Allen. Grayson Allen was inserted into the lineup as Quin Snyder dug deep into the depth chart to find someone—anyone—who had a pulse and could make a shot. Allen scored 7 points in 10 minutes on 100% shooting. Unfortunately, outside of Jae Crowder, the bench just didn’t have it tonight. They were woefully below average against a Memphis Grizzlies bench that could be mistaken for a G-League bench on some nights.
This game was not the beautiful game of basketball for either side. Memphis only shot 36.9% for the game, they were out-rebounded, and sent the Jazz to the charity stripe for 23 FTAs and STILL won. Credit goes to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol who played amazing defense. Marc Gasol was 3 of 5 from deep and dragged Rudy out from the paint that he protects so well. Mike Conley didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc, but he got the line with ease. He made 10 of his 11 FTAs.
The Utah Jazz played most of the game behind by five to eight points. On a night like tonight five to eight points felt like fifteen to twenty. There was a late burst of a run in the final 4 minutes of the game, but that was only due to Marc Gasol fouling out. Other than that, the Utah Jazz just didn’t have it.
Utah’s starting lineup is in some serious trouble. Last year, they had a Net Rating of +12.4. So far through the Jazz’s first three games, it’s not pretty. They have a Net Rating of -36.7 with an offensive rating of 73.3 and a defensive rating of 110.0. It’s Utah’s most played lineup at 29 minutes. This isn’t exactly against the league’s cream of the crop either. Other than Golden State, Utah has faced two lottery teams from last season. The Grizzlies and Kings are improved, but these are the games you gotta take care of.
Rudy Gobert for the season has a defensive rating of 109.5 when he’s on the court. It took Rudy sometime last year to get going. It wasn’t until he returned from injury in January that he really got into a groove. The Jazz are running at a much higher pace with Rudy on the floor. This year they’re averaging 105.39 possessions vs 98.71 last year. That’s a steep increase. Could this increased pace be affecting the Jazz’s defense? It remains to be seen. But right now, Rudy isn’t Rudy.
This year’s Return of Alec Burks looks to have lasted 2.5 regular season games as Grayson Allen got the call over Burks. Burks had struggled against Golden State then again tonight against the Grizzlies. Grayson Allen played smart defense and played well in the offense in YOLO minutes as Utah was looking for anything to get back into the game. Allen might have earned another shot tonight.
After leading the Jazz in scoring for the first two games of the season, Joe Ingles came back to earth. Even Icarus can fly too close to the sun. Joe Ingles was 4 of 13 from the floor and only 1 of 7 from three. He did have 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
The Utah Jazz were getting good shots, but just not hitting any of them. Gasol shut down everything from inside which forced Utah to take a lot of contested threes. Rubio’s trick two pointer from the free throw line was there all night, but he didn’t have it. You have to hand it to the Grizzlies, they played amazing defense and deserved this win. The Jazz allowed the Grizzlies to play their game on Utah’s home court, not a good look.
Ricky Rubio is having a rough start to the season. In his first three games he’s shooting 25% from the field, 33.3% from three, and has the lowest usage rate of his career. He has an average Net Rating of -10.3. That could be partly because he’s with that starting lineup, but we saw last season that he was the catalyst that makes the starting lineup work. If he’s off, that lineup can’t create the spacing to work.
Donovan Mitchell has had flashes where he looks like his Donovan Mitchell self. Right now, we haven’t seen that Donovan Mitchell game yet. It took him about a month to get going last year, too. If Utah wants to surge up the standings this year, they can’t wait a month. They need the Spida they know and love. One would think that a Donovan Mitchell explosion is just on the horizon. He’s due.
Utah has some serious work to do before their road trip and unfortunately, they don’t have the time to do it. They had two days to rest from Golden State and get ready for Memphis and they had their worst offensive performance of the season. The one silver lining was their defense actually looked like itself. Holding an opponent to less than 37% shooting, out rebounding their opponent, and playing a slower pace? That sounds like Utah. Their offense unfortunately looked like Utah last October, not this October.
If Utah can somehow put together both pieces, this defense with their high octane offense we saw against Golden State and Sacramento, then they will be just fine. But the degree of difficulty is going to increase in the next four games as they go on the road to play the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Utah Jazz play in Houston on Wednesday night at 6:00PM MT.