At one point in this game, the Utah Jazz were down 24 to the Memphis Grizzlies and brought the lead down to just 1 with a minute left. The shots didn’t fall and the Grizzlies pulled out the win 117-111.
But this loss was as impressive as anything we’ve seen this season.
Coming into this game the Jazz were without all-star starter Lauri Markkanan. They also lost Collin Sexton to injury in the first half.
Team says Collin Sexton will not return due to an injury to his left hamstring.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 16, 2023
The first half wasn’t great for the Jazz and like I mentioned before they went down by 24 at one point. But this Utah Jazz team is a different animal and at no point do you ever expect them to do anything but fight. Maybe it’s because it’s a team of outcasts with a chip on their shoulder, maybe it’s a coach whose veins in his neck grow larger as the game progresses, or maybe they’re just a bunch of badasses that never quit. Whatever it is, the last thing you can expect from this team is anything but fight till the end of the game.
When this season started the biggest goal, outside of getting a shot at Victor Wembanyama, was to build a winning culture. With a third of the season left, it’s very clear they’ve successfully built that culture. Will Hardy has shown that he’s as versatile of a coach as anyone in the league. He’s shown he can lead a talented team to the top of the league like he did earlier this season. He’s also shown he can develop players. Ochai Agbaji was on G-League assignment 2 months ago and tonight he played a team-leading 38 minutes. Walker Kessler is looking like a multi-time all-defensive player who might turn into something much more. All of this bodes incredibly well for the Jazz who may be adding a franchise-altering talent in the draft if they continue to lose and get some luck in the lottery. If that happens, you’re looking at a team that will be competing at a high level for a very long time considering the draft capital coming soon.
We also need to talk about how this team brings out the best in every player. Kelly Olynyk’s line of 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists was absurd. He also did it on 56% shooting from the field and 42% from three. We also had a monster night from Talen Horton-Tucker who had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. This level of play seems to come from whoever is on the court playing in Hardy’s system. It’s a system that allows players the freedom to be who they are and, when you allow a player to play to their strengths, great things happen. This doesn’t mean the Jazz won’t have down stretches but it’s an impressive run the Jazz are on right now and it’s going to be only getting better from here on out.