The Utah Jazz (32-11) made it out of the 2020-21 NBA Trade Deadline with minimal changes, sending off a second round pick for Toronto sharpshooter Matt Thomas. Their opponent tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies (21-20), similarly did not make a move in yesterday’s wild trade deadline. Thus, despite this being the first matchup between these two teams this season, not much has changed structurally for either team since the beginning of the season. The Grizzlies are largely having a forgettable season. Team pillar Jaren Jackson Jr. has not played this season due to a meniscus tear in last year’s bubble, and the team had significant COVID issues that caused three straight games to be postponed. They’ve had an uneven season since, winning or losing no more than three games in a row, and sit at about .500. In fact, the current Grizzlies 3-game winning streak is the first they’ve put together since the five in a row they had before COVID struck their team.
These teams have an obvious bit of history together, with Grizzlies legend Mike Conley now becoming Mountain Mike, and Grayson Allen and Brandon Clarke (who the Jazz pick was traded up for) becoming staples of the Memphis rotation. In an otherwise pretty forgettable March game, fans on both sides can at least rejoice in Conley’s success this season.
When: 7PM MDT
Where: Vivint Area, Salt Lake City
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Southeast-Memphis
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, WMFS
Projected Starting Lineups
MEM (predicted): G: Ja Morant G: Grayson Allen F: Dillon Brooks F: Kyle Anderson C: Jonas Valanciunas
What to watch for
Ja Morant still has had an excellent season, leading his team with 19.1 points and 7.5 assists a game, a fringe all-star candidate despite the team’s middling record and missing seven games with a left ankle sprain. But he has the potential to explode any given night, such as two 35-point games (with 10 assists/5 rebounds and 5 assists/6rebounds, respectively), against Washington and Milwaukee at the beginning of this month.
The Jazz have historically had a hard time defending against dynamic, quick point guards. Let’s see how he matches up against his franchise’s best point guard of all time.
In the past few weeks, Joe Ingles has been amazingly hot, while Bogey has been on-and-off and Clarkson has gone cold. Much has been said about Jingles’ league-leading true shooting percent and ridiculous 3 point shooting, as well as Bogdanovic’s struggles offensively. Clarkson had a horrible 1-for-15 showing (1-for-11 from three) in the Jazz’s dominating win against the Nets, and is shooting just 28.7% over the last six games. If it weren’t for his amazing start, Clarkson would likely be excoriated with the “chucker” label that followed him from the Lakers to the Cavs. Even Donovan Mitchell has had significant off-nights on both the offensive and defensive end. Hopefully Joe can keep his historic hot streak going, while the other guys can return to form.
Notable about this game is the strange scheduling - the Jazz will play the Grizzlies again tomorrow night in Salt Lake City, and then again next Wednesday at the Fedex forum in Memphis, likely due to the COVID issues the Grizzlies experienced early in the season. It is not easy to defeat the same team three times in a row, so expect an interesting series of adjustments as this mini-series plays out. Will we see some deep bench action, and/or looks with newcomers like Ersan Ilyasova and Matt Thomas? With a potential first-round matchup between these teams, this will be a great opportunity for Quin Snyder and co to practice and test for the playoffs.