After a five game road swing on the East Coast, the Utah Jazz (7-4) return to the Rocky Mountains to protect their home court from them hairy Memphis Grizzlies (4-5). Here are five things to look for this match.
1) Not in our house!
If you’re serious about finishing top 4 this year, the Jazz need to have their house in order! As home court is only an advantage if, you know, you can actually protect it. Last year they were 24-17, the year before 21-20, and the year before that it was a dismal 16-25. So it’s trending in the right direction, and this year they have won 2 and lost 1 so far (to the San Antonio Spurs in, what for them, was a back-to-back session with the Jazz).
This year, if the Jazz really are banking on making some noise, they need to be dominant when playing in Salt Lake City. And that starts with winning against, for example, teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, who currently sit on a losing record after being on the wrong side of a double digit score in Milwaukee (which, for them, opened a four game road trip that sees them play the Clippers next). Two of the games they did win were in OT.
After Sunday's win, Mike Conley on the Grizzlies improved 3-point shooting, "Teams just can't load up in the paint like they used to do." pic.twitter.com/fJpEK9Ac0e— Bryan Fenley (@BryanFenley) October 31, 2016
2) Grindhouse no more
Memphis was known the last few season for grindin’ it out. Playing physical, slow, and, in the end, finishing the job more often than not.
This year, not so much. In their nine matches thus far, six of them saw the opponent score in triple digits, with two other teams notching up 99 and 98 points. They are 23rd in the league in pace (up from 26th and 27th in two seasons under Joerger), and they are allowing 102.6 pts/g for 13th in the league. In the first two seasons under Joerger they were 3rd and 2nd in that category, down from first in Hollins’s last year there.
It’s not only on the defensive end where you can see the difference though, as the Grizz have been talking about upping the pace and spreading the floor. They are averaging a whopping 26.3 3 points attempted, up from 18.5 last year and 15.2 the year before. Mike Conley is attempting over 5 three-pointers per game, with Carter, Parsons, and Gasol (!?!) being over 3.5 attempts as well.
So this ain’t your nanna’s Grizz team, no sir.
3) Veterans off the bench
For the Jazz, off the bench we see Joe Johnson and — if healthy but not so much at the minute — Boris Diaw. The Grizzlies, too, are bringing some of that old age savvy off the bench. Vince Carter had 17 points in their last match, and Zach Randolph had 12 points and 7 rebounds in the losing effort against the Bucks. Randolph is still averaging 14 and 8 this year, which isn’t too shabby for someone who entered the league in the 01/02 season.
In Randolph’s first game against the Jazz ever, Quincy Lewis started at SG, and John Crotty, John Amaechi, and John Starks all came off the bench in a crushing loss for the Jazz. Luckily the Jazz took them to task the second time around that year, with Malone having a 24-13 double-double and Donyell Marshall leading the Jazz with 25 points. Jarron Collins started and was +15. The Jazz had 27 assists that game (how about that for passing with a purpose?).
4) Who plays?
The Jazz have (like always and forever, and ever, it seems) been plagued by injuries at the start of the year. So the big million dollar question is, who plays? Boris Diaw and Alec Burks have relatively longer injuries, but will George Hill and Derrick Favors suit up? Hill hasn’t played for four matches on the Eastern road trip, and Favors’ knee flared up and only played a couple of minutes in the Miami win. And if they play, how close to 100% will they be?
Gordon Hayward: first Jazz player with at least 20 points in each of a player's first 4 games of the season since Karl Malone in 2000-01— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 12, 2016
5) Can Hayward keep his streak going?
During the last match one of Hayward’s streak came to a grinding halt (consecutive free throws scored), but can he keep up his other stretch, the one of 20+ ppg? Since entering the starting line-up to start his 16/17 season, he hasn’t had a match where he didn’t score at least 20 (for the first time since, unsurprisingly, Karl Malone).
The three-point shot hasn’t been falling at an excellent rate, but last match he had five and-1s, and his composure when driving to the basket is a sight to behold. He is really growing into the marquee player that we hoped he would become.