This has been an offensive slugfest of a series so far for the Utah Jazz (1-1) against the Memphis Grizzlies (1-1), quite unlike the regular season series, like coach Quin Snyder alluded to before game one. Tonight, we see the battle turn to the FedEx forum in Memphis, where Grizzlies fans get to see their team return to the playoffs after three years with a new core of players. This is a young Grizzlies team with no quit - despite only Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson being the only two veterans with real playoff experience, the Grizzlies have displayed no fear, from team leaders Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr to talented role players like Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton to rookies like Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman all coming up big in crucial moments.
Readers may be surprised to learn that Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins was Quin Snyder’s lone assistant during Quin’s tenure with the Austin Toros D-League (now G-League) team, taking over the team when Quin left, and the two were assistants together under Mike Budenholzer’s 2013-2014 Atlanta Hawks. Check out this Eric Walden piece on Quin if you haven’t already - it’s a fantastic look into Quin’s experiences to this point.
It’s fair to say that these two have a long history together, and likely know each other’s “secrit playz” inside and out. We’ve seen a strong coaching battle, with Quin making some interesting decisions as his players get in foul trouble, which Jenkins has taken full advantage of. Quin has gotten his team to get to big leads, but Jenkins has always made adjustments for strong counter-punches. Let’s see how these adjustments play out tonight.
When: 7:30PM MDT
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis
TV: ESPN, AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, Bally Sports Southeast-Memphis
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, WMFS
Projected Starting Lineups
MEM (predicted): G: Ja Morant G: Dillon Brooks F: Kyle Anderson F: Jaren Jackson Jr. C: Jonas Valanciunas
What to watch for
Ja Morant has deservedly gotten tremendous credit for showing up and showing out in this series, but Dillon Brooks has stepped up both offensively and defensively to really complement his backcourt partner. Brooks, being the Royce O’Neale of this Grizzlies team, has taken on tremendous pressure from Steph Curry, Mike Conley, and Donovan Mitchell, all while shooting an average of 57.5% from the field (57.1% from 3) and making 27 points per game - in his first playoff series ever! When he got into foul trouble in game two, the Jazz were able to pull away with a big second quarter, but his insanely hot shooting led the Grizzlies right back in quarter three, where it seemed like no one could miss. And, of course, his heroics in game one helped the Grizzlies pull off the upset. It feels like where Dillon goes, the Grizzlies go, taking on the Tony Allen role as the soul of this team. I’m much more concerned with Dillon Brooks and the Grizzlies’ “role players” popping off than Ja Morant.
In two games where defense has been surprisingly hard to come by, the Jazz must look to clamp down on “evil Danny Green”’s offensive production and continue to bait him into fouls to have an easier path towards success, which Donovan Mitchell and co. seemed to do quite successfully in game two. As a player whose season averages have been 17.2 points on 41.9% shooting (34.4% from deep) you’d think he’d regress to mean eventually, but the Jazz need to make sure that happens instead of hoping it will do so and expecting him and his team to just roll over.
With the passing of Jazz legend Mark Eaton, one of Rudy’s biggest mentors and supporters, the team has been dealt another big blow in a tumultuous season that also saw longtime team favorite massage therapist Doug Birrell pass away over all-star break. No doubt Rudy learned and benefited greatly from Mark, and he put out this touching tribute on Twitter:
To my great mentor and friend @markeaton7ft4 , one of kind and an amazing human being, i’m grateful for your presence in my life over the years. Gonna miss our conversations. But i know you’ll be watching. pic.twitter.com/XDvEJTPCwp— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) May 29, 2021
With that said, Rudy has been locked and loaded for this first matchup in Memphis, looking to turn his impact on the court to generosity off of it.
BLOCK SHOT NIGHT!— Rudy’s Kids (@RudysFoundation) May 29, 2021
Rudy’s Kids will donate 1000$ to @StreetsMemphis for every block by Rudy in tonight’s game!
Streets ministries engages, encourages and equips youth to achieve their potential. Funds will be directed to underserved youth for summer enrichment camps. pic.twitter.com/t7rgHiORzY
It’s so awesome to see Rudy’s charitable impact, especially in cities beyond his home base in Utah. Hopefully he can turn his grief into continued dominance. Even with Fave’s surprising success against Jonas Valanciunas, we need Rudy to come out reminding this Grizzlies team why the Jazz should be feared.
Rudy Gobert with a big block in the playoffs, camera pans to animated jazz part owner dwyane wade, is this real life pic.twitter.com/0gXlSrm4Gd— taylor griffin (@griffdunk) May 27, 2021