The Utah Jazz are a team that plays two traditional bigs like the Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams were ready to rumble tonight in the paint, even if Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen were all out. Effectively this game would be won or lost in the paint. The game was physical from the get go, but as the game went on, and technical fouls started to fly, the intensity increased.
Memphis, playoff hardened and many of their main players at their physical peaks or on the wrong side of them, knows how to win games. Utah, with an average age of 23 and having to get significant minutes in this game from rookies Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Bryce Cotton, Jack Cooley, and Elijah Millsap, are still learning.
I'm just going to fast forward most of this game. Utah was down by nine in the first half but came back to tie it at half. The Jazz, and the Grizzlies were not giving up many offensive rebounds, so the key for these two defensive clubs would be offense. Turn overs would be a factor, and the Jazz were sloppy at times. Part of that is just being sloppy, a bigger part is Memphis just being good on defense. Whatever way you want to take it, the Jazz did not play the perfect game, and yet they were still in it. Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and Bryce Cotton were some of the reasons why.
The third quarter saw the physical play ramp up and the refs started to call fewer and fewer fouls. The fourth quarter was a sea-saw battle with one team being on top, then the other. Utah was up by four after steal led to a Gordon Hayward layup, and then another good defensive play let to a Hood to Gobert jam.
The Marc Gasol quietly went to work and scored six straight points for his team. Memphis was up by 3 with 2:34 left. What happened next? Dante Exum was called for a charge. Gasol missed a jumper. Derrick Favors threw the ball away, as Jeff Green stole it and then set up a Marc Gasol miss from 17 feet with 1:44 seconds left.
Then Jazz failed the get the rebound, and Memphis re-set things and then Zach Randolph missed a jumper with 1:07 seconds left.
Then the Jazz failed to get the rebound again, and Zach Randolph then missed another jumper, with 0.51 seconds in the game.
Eventual the Jazz got the ball back, and Hood missed a shot, slightly quick but with time running out and with the game he had you can't fault the rook. Memphis got the rebound, miliked the clock and then missed with 0:13 left. Utah, still down by three, ran the ball up the court without taking a time out. A pass back to Derrick Favors got him an open shot from midrange with 6 seconds left. He missed. Gordon Hayward got the rebound, then missed. Then Rudy Gobert missed the tip in. Game over right?
Nope. There was a jump ball called on the rebound attempt between Gobert and Z-Bo, with 2 seconds left.
Gobert won the jump, but the ball goes back to Marc Gasol, who bats it out of bounds. Jazz ball. Moments left in the game.
After a time out the Jazz worked a great play to get Gordon Hayward open from the corner and he got both feet behind the line, took the shot, and got it blocked out of bounds by Gasol. Game over, right?
The refs (Salvatore) calls a foul on Gasol. Jazz, with virtually not time on the clock and down by three get to go shoot for the game. It's the opposite of what happened to Hood in Phoenix. With our team captain at the line overtime as assured. Right?
Gordon made the first.
Gordon made the second.
Then Gordon miss the last one.
And the Grizzlies went nuts like they won a game to get out of the 2nd round (how many times they've done that? Once? Ever?) -- and started barking at the refs.
If you wanted to call the game tighter there would have been more calls. But part of being a good defense team is developing that reputation. Memphis can play physical, and get away with it. The last foul call was a huge surprise. But a solid win and evidence that this Jazz team has a lot to learn still.
Would have wanted the win. But there's another game tomorrow against the Portland Trail Blazers. They are missing some guys too, but what we know is that doesn't mean our team will win. You still have to fight for it. Still gotta learn how to close games. I believe our guys will do that as they get more big game experience. You can't blame this loss on one free throw. There were chances to win this game elsewhere: 15 turn overs isn't that hot. Especially not against a great team like Memphis.
- Hayward: 27 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 threes, 9/12 from the FT line, 50 FG%
- Hood: 18 points (3 threes, 3/3 from the stripe), 3 rebounds ,2 assists
- Gobert: 14 points (7/11 shooting), 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists
- Cotton: 11 points (4/5 shooting, 2/2 from deep), 1 rebound, 1 steal
- Favors: 5 points (2/10 shooting), 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, solid defense
- Joe Ingles and Jeremy Evans went 3/4 from deep in this game, Dante Exum and Trevor Booker went 1/6. Strange.
You could tell Memphis was happy for this win. It meant something to them to beat the Jazz, get the win, and hopefully win their division. Utah may have a part to play in how the West is decided.