Tonight we see a healthy Utah Jazz (23-15) face off against a rested and ready Memphis Grizzlies (23-16) in what appears to be a bigger, more important game than we expected when looking at just the schedule.
I’m already priming the fanbase for an easy excuse here. The Utah Jazz are playing on the second night of a back-to-back (in Minnesota last night); playing the third game in four nights; and the fifth game in seven. While the team has been healthy, they have been playing some guys fewer minutes than we’d expect (Alec Burks being one of them), meaning that there’s more strain on some others.
It’s been a long road trip, and Memphis is the last stop. I can imagine that some guys — like Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward — can’t wait for the long flight back to Utah. But before they can get there the two leaders on this team have another 30+ minutes to play tonight.
Memphis is going 11 deep right now, and did so in their impressive thrashing of the Golden State Warriors the other night. But in that game three of their players logged more than 40+ minutes (Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Marc Gasol). Both teams have been fighting hard every night. Tonight is where these two teams come to a head.
The Jazz and Grizz are tied 1-1 so far this season. And there are two more games left to play in the season series. Right now these two teams are 0.5 Games from one another in the Western Conference standings. There’s a possibility that these two teams could finish the season with a tied record. And in terms of the NBA Playoff seeding, a tie-breaker could go a long way to determining which of these two clubs has the easier draw in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
Last season the Jazz won the series 2-1 — both games were in Utah. But over the last few seasons the Jazz have found ways to win in Memphis. You know, like earlier on in this season where the Jazz won by 9 in their gym. If Utah can win in Memphis tonight they go up 2-1, with the last game in the series in their gym. A win tonight means that they don’t lose the series, at worst tie it with a 2-2 record. And that means that if these two teams finish the season tied, they have to go to the second criteria for tie-breaking. (Which I believe is conference record.)
Both of these teams don’t go crazy on forcing turn overs, but have amazing defenses. It’s because they challenge shots. But the end of a defensive possession doesn’t end with an opponent taking a bad shot. It ends when you have the ball in your hands. The simple way of doing this is rebounding the miss. Both of these teams are solid on the glass.
- Memphis: 78.7 DRB% (4th best in the NBA)
- Utah: 76.6 DRB% (12th best in the NBA)
- Memphis: 24.0 ORB% (12th best in the NBA)
- Utah: 21.6 ORB% (22nd best in the NBA)
Utah is good on the glass, but Memphis is great. In a way, they are AS good on the offensive glass as the Jazz are on the defensive glass. Utah has had trouble taking care of business on their side of the glass on this trip.
- Brooklyn Nets: 8 offensive rebounds, 19.0 ORB%
- Boston Celtics: 4 offensive rebounds, 12.9 ORB%
- Toronto Raptors: 21 offensive rebounds, 38.2 ORB%
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 14 offensive rebounds, 32.6 ORB%
The Grizzlies are really going to test that tonight with their legion of length: Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, etc. The team that wins the battle of the boards will have the inside track of winning this game. I will say that a lot of Utah’s numbers this year come from minutes where Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert aren’t in the game at the same time. Tonight we’re going to see these two healthy beasts playing with one another, not instead of one another.
Four. Three point making
Utah has built an offense where so many players will take threes. Not taking the open three with Quin Snyder’s offense is actually breaking the play. The Jazz are also making 36.8% of their threes this year — which is 8th best in the NBA. They are taking 26.1 threes a night, only 15th, but a huge part of that is pace related. (Utah plays at the slowest pace in the league.) It adds up to the Jazz being the 7th best team in eFG% in the league, 52.6%. Utah may not have a high octane offense, but when it matters their ability to make deep shots is supposed to change the outcome of games, in their favor.
Memphis isn’t great from deep, 21st in % (34.8%) but 12th in attempts per game (25.9). Guys like Troy Daniels, Mike Conley, Vince Carter, Marc Gasol (for reals), and Chandler Parsons can shoot from deep and make shots. But that’s not what I’m really worried about. I’m worried about Memphis’ ability to take away the three.
Opponents are only shooting 34.6% from deep this season against the Grizzlies. For the Memphis defense that places them at 5th best in the NBA. Or the other way to say it, teams are shooting 26th “best” from deep against these bears. Utah’s going to need to make these shots if they are going to escape with a win.
Five. Dante Exum
Exum got his second DNP-CD last night. Is he really out of the rotation. It is just that Quin Snyder wants to play Shelvin Mack and there’s really no good communication within the team as for why this is? (In a way, giving credence to Trey Burke and his locker clean out interview last May?)
I am positive that Shelvin Mack isn’t going to get better as the season goes on. Dante Exum will. There’s no good reason to hold onto this Mack-candle. The team is tired, on a long trip, play the guy with legs who can defend. Not the guy who can turn it over for no good reason.