Dante Exum has been waiting a long time to show off all the hard work he put into his game during the offseason and so have Jazz fans. The wait was certainly worth it. Dante Exum exploded in his first game with extended minutes scoring 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting while going 3 of 4 from deep in 27 minutes in a 107-97 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He also added 3 rebounds 3 assists. Ricky Rubio was a late scratch in this game due to a sore hamstring, and Dante Exum did his best Lou Gehrig impression.
The Memphis Grizzlies were giving the Utah Jazz trouble all game long until the late 3rd quarter. That was when the Memphis unapologetically tanked the game. The Grizzlies subbed out Marc Gasol who was having an insane game and never brought him back. Gasol finished with an absurd line of 28 points on 11 of 12 shooting in only 23 MINUTES. This is the type of tanking move that gets teams fined. The Chicago Bulls were fined for excessive tank maneuvers earlier in the season. This decision to sub Gasol out is the type of move that will be sure to make Adam Silver’s blood boil.
Donovan Mitchell was the game’s leading scorer with 22 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Donovan continues to get to the line often. Unfortunately tonight he struggled only making 6 of his 10 free throws. In the game preview, we talked about his three point shooting cooling off. His woes from deep continued as he only shot 25% from three point land. Donovan Mitchell also played the entire game with his right middle finger taped. No word if it was anything serious, but on an alley-oop dunk, Donovan Mitchell caught and grazed the rim gently on the dunk, not his normal intensity. Has to have been a little sore.
Joe Ingles had another one of his ho-hum almost got a Triple Double Lines again as he finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists. He also dunked the ball in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gobert added 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 steals in this game. He was getting fouled pretty heavily throughout the game and wasn’t getting a good whistle. When he did get to the line he had trouble capitalizing on his opportunities, only shooting 50% from the stripe. Derrick Favors also had trouble from the stripe missing all four of his free throws. Favors finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
Utah’s shooting from the free throw line would have been the type of shooting performance that would have cost them the game had Marc Gasol played all four quarters. While Utah got a precious win that helps them in this playoff race, this game didn’t go very far in alleviating concerns that Utah is running out of steam at the worst time before the playoffs. Utah is 3-3 in their last six games. If Gasol plays his normal minutes, one has to wonder if Utah is 2-4 in their last six games and barely holding onto the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
Utah’s next game is in Minnesota on Sunday evening at 5:00PM MT. Big playoff implications are on the line.
Ricky Rubio was a late scratch in tonight’s game. The hamstring wasn’t feeling well and minutes before the game Utah and Rubio decided it was best he get some rest.
I’d be really surprised if the NBA doesn’t fine the Memphis Grizzlies for their blatant tank job in Utah. While it’s a relief to see Utah get a victory, this felt like plugging in the game genie in the 3rd quarter. It was hollow. Tanking teams really throw off the playoff race late in the season and not for the better.
Utah got some help in the standings tonight with the New Orleans Pelicans losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets beating the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Dallas Mavericks almost beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it wasn’t meant to be. Utah is now 7th in the West and only 1⁄2 a game back of OKC and Minnesota and a full game behind San Antonio for the 4th seed. If Utah had beaten Atlanta and Boston they actually would be tied for the 4th seed while owning the tie breaker over the San Antonio Spurs.
On the same Sunday night Utah plays Minnesota, the Oklahoma City Thunder go on the road to face the New Orleans Pelicans. If the Pelicans win and the Jazz win, Utah moves up to the 5th seed. That same day the Houston Rockets faces off against the San Antonio Spurs. If the Spurs lose, Thunder lose, and the Jazz win in Minnesota ... Utah has still somehow managed a way to be in 4th in the West. The West is crazy.