From the Jazz taking over in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to Memphis’ strong responses to Utah slugs, this game was quite reminiscent of Game 3.
From the get-go, the Jazz were able to find their shooting stroke from downtown. In particular, Royce O’Neale had confidence in taking (and making) timely shots from deep. This forced Memphis’ defense to stretch out past the perimeter, opening driving lanes for Utah’s ball-handlers and bigs. O’Neale ended the night with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. The Jazz are going to need O’Neale to continue this kind of impact throughout for the rest of the post-season if they want to have a real “contending” run.
As a whole, the Jazz ended the night shooting 17-34 from downtown. On a night where Donovan Mitchell goes 8-22 from the field (more on this later), Jordan Clarkson 8-18, and Joe Ingles 1-4, a great team-performance from three can cover up for a lot of individual mistakes.
It also helps when the other team struggles to hit anything from downtown. Memphis ended the night 10-35 from deep, with a notably poor shooting performance from Ja Morant. He ended the night with 23 points, but took 21 shots to get there and only made 8 of them. This was, hands-down, Utah’s best defensive performance against Morant. For the first time all series, Morant appeared to look uncomfortable with what Utah was giving him. On almost every single ball screen and hand-off, Utah’s defenders went under, daring him to shoot three’s and long mid-range jumpers. Any time Morant chose to take a jumpshot outside of the paint, the possession was win for the Jazz. I don’t think Utah can ask for much better than what they got tonight.
Outside of him, the Grizzlies were able to get 21 points from both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks. Jackson Jr. ended the night shooting 3-10 from downtown, which is really great for Utah because this season he shot just below 30% from three. Those are probably not the most efficient shots for the Grizzlies offense to generate because (1) Jackson Jr. just isn’t that great of a shooter and (2) because they hurt Memphis’ chances of getting offensive rebounds, something they had been doing really well up until this game. Memphis ended the game with only 7 offensive rebounds, which pales in comparison to 16 they had in Game 3. This, it seems, was something the Jazz were focused on limiting coming into this game and the adjustments they made clearly worked.
Now, as it pertains to Mitchell, this game was both really good and really bad for him. When it comes to the positives, he did a much better job of facilitating tonight, ending the game with 8 assists. He also did a fantastic job of getting to the line. During the second half in particular, Mitchell was getting some super-star level calls, leading to 13 free-throw attempts for him on the night. At points during throughout the game, I had no idea how the Grizzlies were supposed to defend Mitchell because they kept getting called for any contact they gave him on drives. This, obviously, is a great thing for Utah. I don’t think it can be overstated how important a whistle like this could be for them moving forward. If Mitchell gets James Harden-esque officiating, Utah’s ceiling skyrockets.
As for the negatives, it concerned me to see how easily the Grizzlies scored on Mitchell throughout the game. I’m scared that when the Jazz face a better team, one with multiple dynamic offensive threats (like the Clippers), Mitchell will become a big target. While part of this could be his ankle, watching Mitchell die on almost any kind of off-ball or on-ball action tonight was not very confidence-inducing. He simply has to do better than getting easily beat off the dribble by Grayson Allen for the Jazz to beat the Clippers or the Lakers in the future.
Mitchell also just had a poor shooting night. While ended the game with 30 points, it was mostly thanks to getting a plethora of free-throw attempts. This isn’t at-all concerning because bad shooting nights just happen. However, I will say that I think part of the reason why he shot poorly was because of some bad shot selection. I think Mitchell has to stop settling for contested mid-range jumpers moving forward.
This one could go a few ways. I think Mike Conley has a case because he took control of the Utah offense in the last 3 minutes of the fourth quarter and was a huge reason why the Jazz were able to pull away. Jordan Clarkson also ended up having a pretty big imprint on the game, finishing with 24 points after a hot second half.
However, per-usual, I think this one has to go to Rudy Gobert. He ended the night with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and changed the pace of the game in Utah’s favor multiple times. At this point, I think we know the equation pretty well: if Rudy Gobert plays well, the Utah Jazz play well.