Let’s be perfectly clear right off the bat — this wasn’t a fancy game of basketball. The Utah Jazz (18-10) defeated the Memphis Grizzlies (18-11) by a neat score of 82-73. But this game had a lot of problems, for both fan bases. Utah shot 56% from the line, leaving nine points there in what was mostly a one possession game for much of crunch time. The team also shot 5/24 from deep before they made three in a row in the late fourth. Utah also gave up 19 offensive rebounds, and were beat to countless 50/50 balls. Memphis shot even worse, going 2/23 from deep for a 8.7% success rate. The also found a way to shoot over 15% worse than the Jazz from the field and on offense were just a mess. They would manage 12 assists despite attempting 93 shots. They were blocked 11 times. And they lost at home.
Both teams finished the first half with fewer than 40 total points. This game was slow. And all the misses didn’t help speed it up one bit. But that’s fine. These two teams weren’t build for speed. Honestly. You’d need a time machine to make it a fast breaking game for clubs that are looking to get key rotation minutes out of Boris Diaw, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Joe Johnson. Together, 48 minutes, both teams managed just four total fast break points. (Two each per team.) It was a grit and grind game.
And it was a game where I think we can say Utah is up for the grit and grind crown. If it was just the vacuum of Marc Gasol against Rudy Gobert it’s easy to see who won. (It was Rudy) Gasol finished the game with 8 points (4/22 shooting), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and was a -18 in +/-. Gobert countered with 21 points (9/9 shooting), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal, and a +16 in +/-. Rudy regressed at the FT line (going 3/7) while Marc couldn’t find the mark from deep (0/5). In traditional bigman metrics our bigman was bigger. In the game preview I felt like whomever won this battle would put their team in the lead for winning this game.
The final six minutes (the game was 66-64 for Memphis, if I remember correctly) were a microcosm of the previous 42. Memphis got offensive rebounds but couldn’t make a shot. Utah worked the ball around, and weren’t always sharp doing it. Rudy controlled the paint. And when it counted the Jazz got three pointers made by Boris Diaw, Gordon Hayward, and Shelvin Mack. Those three guys — outside of those three shots — went 4/6 from three in the game. That’s kind of who you wanted taking those shots as a result. (Dante Exum was 0/2, Rodney Hood was 0/8, Trey Lyles was 0/2, Joe Ingles was 0/1, and Joe Johnson was 1/4.)
Memphis’ inability to get a good shot when they needed it could be partly because they were missing a starter, floor spacer and three point ace Chandler Parsons. What then of the Utah Jazz missing starter George Hill? (Or Alec Burks?) These two teams have been somewhat rudderless on offense because of their multitude of injuries over the last three seasons. A final score where neither team scores 85 points is evidence of that. And of the slow pace of play and strong emphasis on defense.
Utah proved that they were the Morty-est Morty tonight, by playing the slow game and winning. Will they be the Rick-est Rick by beating Golden State in their next game? We’ll see. Those two teams face off on Tuesday.