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Memphis Grizzlies upset Utah Jazz: Mike Conley’s return spoiled by Ja Morant

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The rookie phenom gave Grizzlies fans a preview of Grit-N-Grind 2.0 in front of the original model.

Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-107 in Mike Conley’s homecoming to Memphis. Mike Conley had a rough night on the court and he’ll probably want a mulligan in his next game visiting Memphis. He was 5 for 19 with 15 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. Meanwhile, it’s phenom replacement in Memphis, Ja Morant, had the best game of his young career shooting 9 for 22 and finishing with 25 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds. He may just have a future in this league.

The Jazz lost the game in the final seconds as they were down 1 with 3.9 seconds left in the clock. The inbounds play was blown up by Memphis before the Jazz could get the ball in, and Utah lacked an additional timeout to reset. Donovan Mitchell got the ball going away from the basket, and was stripped (or fouled if you were not a referee), and time ran off the clock. Even if he wasn’t fouled and kept the ball, it’s debatable whether he would have even got a good look at the hoop.

Let’s get into the reactions, overreactions, and under-reactions, shall we?

Reaction #1: Utah has got to stop putting themselves into these close game situations

As I said above, Mitchell was clearly fouled on the last play of the game, but my father who is a referee would sometimes jokingly say to me after a close game he refereed, “If the coaches wanted to win the game, the shouldn’t have put the game in my hands.” Referees get the call right most of the time, but just like all humans, they’re not infallible. They will mess up. If you want to win the game, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re relying on a beneficial whistle.

The Jazz have found themselves in a game decided by 5 points or less six times this season with tonight being the seventh. That is over half of Utah’s games that the Jazz have found themselves in late game single digit situations. Miraculously, they are 5-2 so far this season, but when you put yourself in this type of position, you deserve to lose by the whistle—or lack thereof. So how did the Jazz get here?

Reaction #2: The Utah Jazz’s bench is not too hot right now

The minute Tony Bradley walks onto the court, the Utah Jazz are 11.2 points worse per 100 possessions. Part of that is he is backing up a potential future Hall of Fame defensive player, the other part of that is he hasn’t been that good. Tonight he had a +/- of -11. He only played 11 minutes. Every minute Tony Bradley was on the court, the Memphis Grizzlies cut into a deficit or increased their lead by one point. What’s even more telling is in a game where Utah NEEDED another big man, they limited Bradley’s minutes only to 11.

This could be a really rough road trip for Tony Bradley. He had a Net Rating of -39.3 in a one point game against the Memphis Grizzlies. There will be much tougher opponents on this road trip. If he doesn’t turn it around, we could see Utah scrounging around the free agent heap for a Center that shows more of a pulse.

But it’s not just Bradley’s fault, though he’s not helping.

Overreaction #1: What’s going on with Joe Ingles?

Joe Ingles only took 4 shots. He contributed 2 assists and 2 rebounds, but he was otherwise absent. His defense has been good and his +/- was a positive for this game, but he’s not the offensive weapon he has been in the past. So far for the season, Joe is having his worst season in the NBA. He’s become an average Joe. Utah needs a scoring punch off the bench. Emmanuel Mudiay and Jeff Green are becoming the default scorers in this bench unit but they need more from the bench.

Dante Exum was a DNP tonight, could he provide more offense and better defense? Who knows with Exum returning from injury, but with Ed Davis hurt, Joe not himself, and the bench unit lacking an identity, Utah could find themselves in more of these close games.

Overreaction #2: When will Mike Conley be Mike Conley?

Maybe we can chalk this one up to an emotion homecoming game. By the time the game started, who knows how much emotion and adrenaline was running through Conley’s veins. He turned it around in the second half, got to the line more, slowed the game down, but the young phenom, Ja Morant, got the best of him. Mike Conley still looks out of sorts. I anticipate we’ll see more of this until mid December. It seems to be that players take a good two months to get acclimated to Snyder’s offense.

Right now Utah is -0.2 points worse when Conley steps onto the floor. That number has been improving every game. We’re almost to December, but Utah needs to stay afloat and grit-n-grind out some more wins to keep pace with a loaded Western Conference.

Underreaction #1: Ja Morant is GOING TO BE A STAR

What can I say that won’t inevitably be said by everyone else about Ja Morant? He’s what I thought Dante Exum would be when he was drafted by the Utah Jazz. He’s quick, dynamic, and has swagger. He doesn’t back down and he’s a lot of fun to watch. The Memphis Grizzlies have a bright future with Jaren Jackson Jr and Ja Morant in the city of Delta Blues. He sliced and diced Utah. I can’t hate a team when they get a star player when they were not intentionally trying to tank. They pushed for playoff teams every year and when that didn’t work out, the lottery gods rewarded Memphis’ effort.

Bonus Underreaction #2: Rudy Gobert may be even better this year?

Rudy Gobert had 23 points, 17(!!) rebounds, and 5 blocks and the Jazz were a +10 when he was on the court in a one point game. His defense was immaculate, he was rebounding everything, and—if Utah didn’t mess up the inbounds on the final play of the game—he would have had the game saving block on Ja Morant just seconds before. Rudy Gobert this year has been a defensive monster.

Rudy Gobert had a defensive rating of 96.3 in this game. The only problem Utah have is he can’t play all 48 minutes. Quin Snyder is definitely feeling tempted, though. Snyder played him 36 minutes on the first game of their road trip and that was against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies. But efforts like tonight will continue to be wasted until Utah can have quality bench minutes and paint protection when the Stifle Tower is not on the floor.