The Jazz (11-7) are in a weird state right now. The team is doing well overall by win-loss record, on pace for a 50 win season, standing pat at the 6th seed in a stacked western conference, but something seems off. The bench seems unproductive, and with Ed Davis out, sorely lacking in rebounding or toughness. The defense takes a dive without Rudy Gobert, but the offense dies when he’s surrounded by anyone except the starters. The team as a whole has lowest positive plus/minus in the league right now - +2.3, tied with the 8-9 Phoenix Suns for 13th. Compared to all other teams above .500, only the Timberwolves (10-8) have more losses. What are the Jazz to do?
As they say, winning cures all ills. The Jazz are facing off against the Grizzlies (5-12) in FedEx Forum for the second time of the season already. Last time, on Mike Conley’s homecoming, they lost a nailbiter 107-106 on the back of heroics from Conley replacement Ja Morant. (Conley trade piece Jae Crowder played well two, double-doubling with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 3-pointers.) Since then, the Grizzlies have lost 5 straight, on the road and at home, against powerhouses like the Nuggets, Lakers, Clippers, Pacers, and Warriors - hold up, they lost at home against this season’s version of the Warriors? It was actually the least close loss out of the five.
Suffice it to say this Grizzlies team is going to be tough. They have six players averaging more than 11 points per game, so focusing on making Jae Crowder beat the Jazz rather than letting everyone cash in on the action is worth consideration. Rookies Ja Morant (19.1p/3.2a/6.6a) and Brandon Clarke (12.5p/6.3r/1.0b) look like the real deal. The Jazz NEED to bring back that sense of urgency and willingness to fight for the top of the NBA.
When: Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 • 8:00 PM ET
Where: FedExForum • Memphis, TN
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Southeast-Memphis
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone, ESPN Radio 92.9FM / 680 AM
What to watch for
One thing that I realized recently when reading about Mike Conley’s struggles this season is that he’s never played in a system without a floor-spacing center. Sure, Marc (and Pau, in their lone overlapping season) Gasol and Jonas Valanciunas may have only recently become three point shooters, but Marc definitely took his fair share of long twos and made plays from the top of the arc. You can see how he’s used to playing that two man game in the offensive highlights below. Rudy Gobert is a totally different monster, a rim-rolling, screen-setting threat, but he doesn’t have range, and that takes away from how Mike is used to playing out of the pick and roll. His three point shooting is okay but not great (34.7%) but his two point percentage is really suffering (38.3%). Mike has played 12 years in the same system as the point of attack, and he’s no longer the main offensive threat. Unfortunately, that means that his adjustment period might take a long time. I’d like to see him play more in bench lineups instead of Donovan, as the Jeff Green-at-center experiment has produced mixed results but might lend itself more to Conley’s playstyle. Not to mention, we’re returning back to the Grindhouse again, Conley’s old stomping grounds. If there’s anywhere where he’s most likely to return to form, it will be here.
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