The Utah Jazz (7-5) got punched in the mouth early by the Memphis Grizzlies (5-5) who made it to .500 and won their first road game of the 2016-2017 season tonight, 102-96. Memphis shot 60 FG% in the first quarter and ran away to 33 points. Really. On the road. Against a defensive minded club. This loss brings the Jazz down to .500 at home, which is similarly unexpected. This was an earned loss, and I’m not going to blame it on all of the injuries. Yes, George Hill didn’t play. Yes, Rodney Hood didn’t play. Yes, Alec Burks didn’t play. Yes, Derrick Favors played only 21 minutes and then left and did not return because of injury. Let’s not forget that the Grizz were without the grindfather Tony Allen and Brandan Wright. Okay, maybe not the same level of firepower — but I’m not going to blame this on injuries. Utah had the lead in the fourth quarter after fighting back from 13 down. They had a chance to win, but didn’t get it done.
It was a close game, all things being equal. Memphis’ 33-25 first quarter was a difference maker. They tied 23-23 in the second. The Jazz won the third 22-17. But the inability to finish the game hurt them, and Memphis won the final frame 29-26. At the risk of repeating myself again, the first quarter was the difference maker here. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were great. Early and often. And Memphis got a huge boost off the bench from Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. In a low possession game with a slow pace those four vets scored 78 of Memphis’ 102 points. Letting four guys with the combined age of a brontosaurus score 80% of their points — and losing to them — is not a good look.
I am disregarding anything Chandler Parsons did, he’s pretty worthless.
Utah had big games from Joe Ingles, Trey Lyles, and Shelvin Mack. These three were the top scorers for the team. Yeah. Gordon Hayward shot 4/14 from the floor, 1/7 from deep, and finished with just 13 points. Not his shining moment. And if we’re going to be critical here, star players who are legit #1 options find ways to lead their team even if they are shooting poorly. For someone like Kobe Bryant this means shooting 30 shots in a game. For someone like G-Time perhaps it means facilitating a little more, he finished with 3 assists. Maybe not his fault, as the Jazz shot 8/28 from downtown in this game (under .300).
The offense wasn’t working, not against this disciplined Memphis club that has been together for a long while now. A big issue is going to be how Quin Snyder finished this game — with a Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles, Gordon Hayward, Trey Lyles, Boris Diaw unit that somehow fought against the clock in situations where they needed a three by working it around for a long developing two.
Rudy Gobert got a little testy and did not have his best game, but we didn’t see much of him in the second half after picking up his 5th foul. Favors was hurt, so I guess Lyles / Diaw is what you’re rolling with if you are trying to send a message to Rudy.
Joe Johnson was 0/4 in this game in 15 minutes. He is one of the best closers in NBA History, though. Finishing close games is kind of what he does — and Utah had the lead with like 3 or 4 minutes to go. I know that Ingles was hot, and he hit four threes in this game. You keep a guy like that in the game. Shelvin Mack was too, by the numbers. By the eye-ball test he wasn’t that effective in this game. For his 17 points he were still on the negative side of the ledger.
Anyway, this was a close game, and a loss. The loss here is in Favors possibly being hurt for longer than expected. That sucks more than dropping a game to the Grizz. The Jazz have a few nights off and will play again, at home, hosting the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. I think they need the rest.